Scandinavian crime fiction has its own atmosphere, and I like it. It’s a combination of the cold weather, the impressive vistas, and the idyllic cities, and the darker, seamier underside to that idealism, an underside hidden by those in power. Crimes in the present are driven by crimes in the past; nothing is ever quite as it seems on the surface.
Camilla Läckberg is a very popular author in her native Sweden but her books are just beginning to be translated into English; this is the first I’d read of hers. Overall I rather enjoyed it. It’s not a fast-paced mystery but that’s not necessarily what you’re always looking for. Ericka Falk is the author of a number of well-regarded biographies of Swedish women writers, back in her coastal home town after the deaths of her parents in a tragic accident. While there, a face from her past, her old best friend Alexandra, is found in her bathtub, frozen and quite dead. Alex’s parents ask Ericka to write a piece about their daughter, commemorating her life, and it is through this investigation that the events of the story unfold.
The author keeps you guessing about the whys and the hows–I don’t want to ruin any surprises but her misdirection is done very well, although I would have appreciated it if she could have given the reader some clues rather than randomly mentioning on a page, “____ had figured out who the killer was” and then the reasoning never having appeared in the story previously. But that’s a minor quibble, as is the next one–Falck’s Bridget Jones-esque worrying about her weight was a little uncomfortable for me. There are a few plot lines that I felt sure would have to be resolved that weren’t even touched upon, though they were secondary plot lines in The Ice Princess, so I’m assuming they will appear in later Falck books. The characters (besides the unfortunate Spanx-wearing-episode) are all well-developed, many of them haunted by skeletons in their closets, unhappy but keeping up appearances because that is just what is done.
If you’ve read Henning Mankell you will probably enjoy these books as well; Stieg Larsson fans maybe not so much (although there are some similarities in theme, it’s just not as fast-paced or violent).