by Camilla Låckburg
translated by Steven T. Murray
Pegasus, June 2010
Hardcover, 400 pages
Our copy: review copy from the publisher
Sue has returned with another review on another Scandinavian import novel: The Ice Princess by Camilla Låckburg. Read on for her thoughts on this one.
The Synopsis (from IndieBound):
In this electrifying tale of suspense from an international crime-writing sensation, a grisly death exposes the dark heart of a Scandinavian seaside village. Erica Falck returns to her tiny, remote hometown of Fjällbacka, Sweden, after her parents’ deaths only to encounter another tragedy: the suicide of her childhood best friend, Alex. It’s Erica herself who finds Alex’s body—suspended in a bathtub of frozen water, her wrists slashed. Erica is bewildered: Why would a beautiful woman who had it all take her own life? Teaming up with police detective Patrik Hedström, Erica begins to uncover shocking events from Alex’s childhood. As one horrifying fact after another comes to light, Erica and Patrik’s curiosity gives way to obsession—and their flirtation grows into uncontrollable attraction. But it’s not long before one thing becomes very clear: a deadly secret is at stake, and there’s someone out there who will do anything—even commit murder—to protect it.
Fans of Scandinavian greats Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell will devour Camilla Läckberg’s penetrating portrait of human nature at its darkest.
I’ll admit I’m not a mystery fan. Mayhem and gore are not my idea of a good time, which means, despite reading A Small Death in the Great Glen, I’m still pretty much a newbie in the area of murder mysteries. For this reason I approached reading The Ice Princess with a bit of trepidation. I had nothing to fear, though: Läckberg’s novel was an enjoyable, easy-going entry into the genre.
Her characters are definitely her strong point. They are complicated people who are far from perfect, and their innermost thoughts are interesting, often funny, and have a ring of realism to them. I have to say the introduction of Patrick’s character has to be one of the most charming I’ve encountered anywhere in literature and made me fall for him instantly. A hard working policeman with a self-deprecating sense of humor, he’s intelligent without that faux-brilliant intellect that mars other fictional cops. His courtship of Erica is sweetly satisfying.
Erica is a loveable heroine – she’s beautiful, but self-conscious about her weight. She’s a writer struggling to find a subject she cares about, and is mourning the recent deaths of her parents, as well as worrying about her younger sister’s marriage to an abusive man. The murder of a childhood friend causes her to become determined to find the killer and brings her into close contact with Patrick, another childhood friend.
When I reviewed another book set in Sweden awhile back I made a snippy comment about ‘moody Swedishness’, which really wasn’t fair, and this novel proves that you can incorporate lots of mood and atmosphere into a story without becoming morose about it. Erica’s world may be cold and wintry, but it’s populated by some warm and lively people.
I do have a problem with some of the descriptions I’ve seen describing this book as ‘riveting’, ‘chilling’, ‘electrifying’ and ‘suspenseful’. Despite my newbie status, I’m pretty sure this story would be considered mystery-lite. It’s enjoyable, and it keeps you wondering who’s done what to whom, but for hard-core murder mystery fans it has to be disappointing. The descriptions and plot twists are not edge-of-your-seat stuff, nor is the police work CSI worthy. As a study of the Swedish burg of Fjällbacka it’s excellent. It’s cute, interesting and fun, but these are just not adjectives I’d expect to use on a hard-hitting thriller.
Still, for those who are looking for an entertaining who-done-it without a heavy dose of blood and gore, The Ice Princess is very well written and contains some enjoyable characters.
More from Camilla Lackberg: