Strengths: The crime narrative runs very well alongside the blossoming of Erica and Patrik’s relationship.
Weaknesses: Took me a little while to get into (about 50 pages).
Why I read it: Christmas present; always looking for the next hot Swedish crime series.
Published: 2002 (original version)
Publisher: Harper Collins
Rating: 9 out of 10
If you liked this, try: Stieg Larsson’s trilogy or Henning Mankell
I, like many others, have been searching for the perfect Swedish crime book to follow on from the immensely popular The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. I’ve had a go at Henning Mankell and others have tried Jo Nesbo. While both are good, they didn’t create the tension and gripping story that Stieg Larsson did. So now I’ve tried Camilla Lackberg. How does she rate in comparison?
For starters, the storyline is good. Very good. Not cracking pace crazy twist and turns good but a twist on the old formula. We open the book with Erica, a writer trying to write a biography in the small town of Fjallbacka while grieving for her parents and gritting her teeth against her sister’s controlling husband. Alex, Erica’s school friend, is found naked with slashed wrists in the bath by a neighbour, who takes Erica to the scene. Did Alex kill herself? Or was it something more sinister? Erica is asked to write an obituary for Alex and so gets entangled in the mystery. Enter Patrik, local frustrated detective. There are interesting twists and turns in the case- some that you can see coming, others that are a shock as well a subplot as Erica and Patrik get together. This is done rather well, not nauseatingly sweet nor does it detract from the murder case. Having a writer as the central character with assistance from a policeman was a nice change to the usual procedural format. It also allowed for Erica’s perspective to be a lot closer to what the everyday person would experience if put in that situation. It is interesting that violence against women is also a theme of this book, like Stieg Larsson’s books.
Others have described the translation of this book as stilted with ‘fake’ dialogue. I didn’t find that at all. I thought the dialogue was completely natural (although perhaps lacking in English slang, but this is set in Sweden after all) and the translation clear and cohesive. It is not beautiful literature, but a read that certainly gets the reader intimately involved after the first 50 pages. (Bear with the book while it sets everything up, you won’t be disappointed). The characters’ names are also easier to remember in my case- I have sometimes found it difficult to get names straight in Henning Mankell books. There’s only one mention of IKEA!
The Ice Princess is the first in a series starring Erica and Patrik; five of which are currently published in English. The copy of the book I read also had a sampler of the second book, The Preacher. This looks to be another page-turner – I haven’t been this excited about a crime series for some time. Lackberg’s books certainly stand up to the scrutiny of readers who have enjoyed Stieg Larsson’s books – go out and read one now!