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