The Ice Child – Camilla Lackberg

This is another in the author’s series of books featuring Detective Patrick Hedstrom, his wife Erica Falck, and the small Swedish seaside resort town of Fjällbacka. As with the previous books, the present baddie has a back story, and this is disclosed in alternating flashback chapters. In between, the bloody present has to be dealt with. And how bloody and terrible it is.

A girl who went missing four months ago, comes out of nowhere, walks into the middle of the road, and is knocked over and badly injured. And she has also suffered terrible injuries while being a captive. Who did such foul deeds? And is the case linked to that of other girls missing from nearby towns?

Hedstrom and his crew set out to find the culprit while his wife makes a bit of a nuisance of herself as she researches her book, and their paths inevitably cross.

What was missing here was a bit more meat on the motivation and psychological structure of the prime movers. Nothing quite seemed to be persuasive. The story is horrific, and it is reasonably well told – though the writing is often in danger of getting too tied up with distractions. For example, building up the characters of Hedstrom and Falck is one thing, but the family affairs of Falck’s sister’s family is boring, and seems unnecessary. It adds nothing. (It’s not as if the translator can be blamed.)

There are more loose ends than I might have expected, though some of these may be deliberate so as to link into another book. But I also got the feeling that at times this was the author going through the motions; her heart was not in it. The book did not seem to have the same sharp zest and freshness that earlier books did. So, this was good in places, but not the best I have read from this author.

Buried Angels – Camilla Lackberg

The more I read of this author, the more I get frustrated with her adherence to a formula in writing her novels. Don’t get me wrong; this is a finely crafted book, with many of the best ingredients. However, it has the same structure as the last few I remember reading: modern chapter followed by flashback chapter. The modern chapters are about the current crime. The flashback chapters are about the back story and a terrible, hidden secret – there’s always a terrible hidden secret – that is slowly, slowly revealed. And, inevitably, there’s a connection – typically familial – between the people in the flashback chapters and the contemporary chapters. Sometimes, that formula takes the shine off the writing. And the writing, on the whole, is good. There are a few instances where the author does more tell than show, but these are not overwhelming.

OK, so with the disappointment out the way, here’s the upside.

This is another piece of Swedish crime fiction, featuring Detective Patrick Hedstrom and his loose cannon writer of a wife (at least partly, presumably, being a reflection of the author) Erica. The historical background is that in 1974, a family disappeared from their home-cum-boarding-school on an island off the Swedish coast. The boys at the school were out fishing, and returned to an empty place, and raised the alarm. The one year old daughter of the family (Ebba) is left. There are no bodies, no clues, and no explanations

Now, after suffering the tragic loss of her own child, Ebba and her husband return to that place, having bought it and seeking to make a fresh start. Things happen. Bad things…

This is a well constructed, well researched, well presented crime book. All fans of the genre will enjoy it. Her fans will rave, but truly it is good rather than great. It won’t stop me reading more by the same author. Maybe the structure will change. Maybe I won’t notice, or care.

The Preacher – Camilla Lackberg

Kennedy Karlsson believed that it had all started with his name. There wasn’t really much else to blame it on. … No, it was all about the name. He assumed that she [his mother] wanted to call attention to herself and show that she had been out in the big world, even though she came home with her tail between her legs. He would always be a reminder of that. So she never missed a chance to tell someone that her eldest son was named after John F Kennedy, ‘because during her years in the USA she had admired that man so much.’ He wondered why she couldn’t have simply named him John, in that case.

Setting: The resort town of Fjallbacka, Sweden. Continue reading