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Book Author: Camilla Lackberg

THE STRANGER by Camilla Läckberg: Book Review

Serial killers are not common in Sweden, certainly not in small towns such as Fjällbacka.  But although the idea of such a killer is slow to take hold in the police department, eventually the detectives come to that conclusion when a series of apparently unrelated murders are seen to have a common thread.

The Stranger opens with a new hire for the town’s police department, Hanna Kruse, its first female detective.  She has arrived just in time to join veteran detective Patrik Hedström in investigating a fatal car crash.  At first glance it looks cut-and-dried; the driver smells strongly of alcohol and there’s an empty vodka bottle on the floor.  But there’s something about the scene and the victim’s body that bothers Patrik.

Upon further investigation, Patrik discovers the semi-hidden life of the victim, Marit Kaspersen.  Marit had been living with Kerstin, ostensibly as a roommate, with Kerstin pushing for coming out in the open as lesbians while Marit insisted that it would do irreparable harm to her daughter Sofie.  The two women had fought about this many times, and to Kerstin’s distress, the last words that she and Marit had had the night before the accident ended with Kerstin saying to Marit, “Go ahead and run away….And this time don’t bother coming back!”

Fjällbacka is opening its doors to the filming of a reality television show, with all the attendant publicity and chaos that such filming involves.  The self-involved twenty-somethings in the cast know how the game is played–do the most outrageous things and you get the most airtime.  Chosen from previous reality show contestants, the group includes a girl who cuts herself, a wealthy playboy, a surgically enhanced bombshell, and a Turkish emigree, among others. 

Then one of them disappears, and the already busy police department becomes overwhelmed by the pressure from the national media.   Interestingly, the missing cast member doesn’t seem to have left behind grieving mates; the overwhelming feeling is “sorry she’s gone missing, but look at all the extra publicity we’re getting.”

Several other threads run through the novel, bringing the town and its inhabitants into greater focus.   Patrik’s wife Erica is dealing with her sister Anna, who is deeply depressed by a horrific event that occurred in the previous novel, while caring for Anna’s two children.  Bertil Mellberg, the inept head of homicide, is starting a romantic relationship that will turn his life around.  Erling Larson, a wealthy, self-satisfied businessman, is responsible for bringing the reality show to his town and cares only for the onrush of tourists he expects as a result.  And Hanna, the new detective, appears overly eager to close the book on the automobile crash that claimed Marit’s life.

The Stranger is Camilla Läckberg’s seventh book that has been translated into English.  The novels should ideally be read in sequence, as the characters and stories continue from one to the other.  But even if you start with The Stranger, I promise you’ll want to go back and read the others to get the full story of life in Fjällbacka.

You can read more about Camilla Läckberg at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.




THE ICE PRINCESS by Camilla Lackberg: Book Review

Back I go again to snowy, cold Sweden.  Don’t they commit murder in Sweden during the summer?

Be that as it may, The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg will surely chill your blood, regardless of the season in which you read it.

The novel takes place in the present time, but the source of the crimes goes back a quarter of a century. When Erica Falck returns to her hometown of Fjallbacka after her parents’ death, she is immediately confronted by the death of her girlhood friend, Alex.  Alex’s body was found frozen, with her wrists cut, in the bathtub of her home.

Alex is a woman who seems to have everything. The successful co-owner of an art gallery, she is a woman who has beauty, brains, and a very wealthy husband who adores her.  But what was bringing her from her sumptuous home in Stockholm to her former hometown of Fjallbacka nearly every weekend?  Her husband, who knew that his love for her greatly exceeded her love for him, was too fearful to ask questions; better to deal with the uncertainty than to end their marriage.

Erica, a successful writer of famous Swedish women’s biographies, is asked by Alex’s parents to write a eulogy for their daughter.  They are convinced that she would never have killed herself.  According to Alex’s father, “she didn’t have the inner strength.”  And it turns out her parents were right.

Erica is reluctant.  She protests that she and Alex were friends a long time ago and hadn’t had any contact in the intervening years.  But that opens up the question that has bothered Erica all this time–what made Alex drop out of Erica’s life and made her family pick up and leave in the middle of the school year without a word to anyone? 

Various other threads run through The Ice Princess. Erica’s younger sister, Anna, is trapped in an abusive marriage that she doesn’t seem to have the strength to leave.  Anders, the town’s brilliant painter and also its local drunkard, continues to waste his life and his talent.  And then there’s the twenty-five year old mysterious disappearance of the son of the town’s richest family–he was a teacher at the local elementary school and was simply gone one day.  Did he commit a crime and flee?  Was he murdered?  Did his despicable mother and/or his arrogant adopted brother have anything to do with his disappearance?

On the lighter side of this dark novel is the burgeoning romance between Erica and another childhood friend, Patrik Hedstrom, who is now a member of the town’s police force.  In love with Erica since they were children, Patrik can hardly believe his good luck at her interest in him now.

According to the book’s jacket, Camilla Lackberg is the author of four #1 best-sellers in her native country. With her stunning prose and her insights into small town life and its citizens, it’s easy to see why.

You can read more about Camilla Lackberg at her web site.