Previous reviews are at Mack Pitches Up

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg

Location: Sweden - mostly in Fjällbacka, a seaside village on the west coast of Sweden 150 km/93.2 miles north of Göteborg; Göteborg; and Tanumshede, a little north of Fjällbacka.

This is a European selection for Dorte's 2010 Global Reading Challenge

Below are my reactions to The Ice Princess but I recommend you also read Norman's outstanding review at Crime Scraps

Erica Falck has returned to her family home in Fjällbacka after the death of her parents. She is sorting through the effects and at the same time trying to work on a biography of Selma Lagerlöf, a Swedish author and the first female writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Out walking one day, an elderly man frantically asks her to come into a house where she finds the body of Alexandra (Alex) Carlgren, a childhood friend, dead in the bath, apparently a suicide. She has been dead for several days and, with heat has been off, the water has frozen.

Alex's family ask her to write a memorial article. They do not believe that she killed herself. In the course of interviewing Alex's husband and business partner, Erica becomes interested in what happened to her friend, why they grew apart. She forms the idea of writing a book about Alex and what led her to take her life.

The Forensic Pathologist rules the case a suicide. Erica's involvement gets deeper and more complicated when she finds that a detective assigned to the investigation is another childhood friend, one who had a crush on her.

The style of the Ice Princess appeals to me greatly. It is the same feeling I had reading Susan Hill's The Various Haunts of Men though I wouldn't compare the two books. It is more the way Läckberg creates a sense of place and a feeling for the characters. There are little details, not consequential to the plot, that left a mark as I read. When Erica is driving through Göteborg to meet Alex's husband, she is convinced that every road will take her to Hisingen and, indeed, she ends up there trying leave Göteborg. Having spend most of seven days lost driving through the U.K. last year, it made me smile. There is also the scene where Erica is greeting the town's leading lady and is concerned that she will get the sequence of cheek kissing wrong.

I found the story griping. Läckberg parceled out the revealments in a way that kept me guessing. She gave good clues along the way but I was still surprised at how the case concluded.

Plot, characters, and setting combined to make this one of my favorite reads. The translation by Steven T. Murray, who also translates Henning Mankell, feels natural

As soon as my TBR stack shrink a bit I'll be looking for more of her books.

Here is a web site that describes a bit of the real Fjällbacka: A bookworm's tour of murder in Sweden


Margot Kinberg said...

Mack - Thanks for this review. I did, indeeed, read Norman's review, and now this one is on my TBR list. Mine's at least as long as yours is, but this one seems worth the add.

Uriah Robinson said...

Mack, thanks for the praise. I hope the weather is a bit warmer for you down in Virginia now.

Dorte H said...

I really enjoyed The Ice Princess also. A fine debut indeed. But sadly to say, I don´t think Läckberg has developed much since then. She was called Scandinavia´s queen of crime almost immediately so perhaps she did not feel she had anything to learn.

Cathy said...

Thanks for the review and the link. Both made for interesting reading. I have The Ice Princess on my TBR shelves. Hopefully, it won't take me more than a year or two to get to it!

Reg said...

I think The Preacher, just out in paperback, is even better, and The Stonecutter is the best yet (coming soon in hardback). Steve

Red Emma said...

I thought "The Ice Princess" was diverting, and part of the denouement was a real surprise, but another part was expected. But I thought the translation was awful: wordy, awkward. I had thought the Stieg Larsson books were rather clumsily written but didn't know whether that was the fault of the original or the translator. Now I know it was the translator.