“The house was desolate and empty. The cold penetrated into every corner. A thin sheet of ice had formed in the bathtub. She had begun to take on a slightly bluish tinge. He thought she looked like a princess lying there. An ice princess…”
– Camilla Lackberg, The Ice Princess
For someone who really dislikes violence, I have certainly read a lot of crime books in my time. I mentioned last week that I avoid true crime as much as possible, however there was a time where I devoured every fictional crime book I could get my hands on. Thankfully, my Nan was also a big crime reader so I was able to raid her bookshelves whenever I wanted to. There are times when I struggle with the overly graphic and violent stories – usually from the likes of Jo Nesbo and Kathy Reichs – but Camilla Lackberg has managed to capture just the right amount of not-too-gory yet thrilling crime.
When Erika Falck returns to her hometown of Fjallbacka after the death of her parents, she is surprised to find the small, sleepy community is transitioning into a popular summer destination. What was once a small seaside fishing village is the now the home to many summer travellers. While she prepares her parents house for potential sale, Erika’s childhood friend is found in an ice-cold bath with her wrists slashed. What first appears as a suicide case soon leads to something more and Erika finds herself wound up with the local police investigation. Both Erika and Patrik Hedstrom have suspicions about Alex’s death and soon they uncover a very disturbing past.
There is a lot to like about Lackberg’s books. Preferably read in order, The Ice Princess is the first of eight that explore the crimes and relationships of the inhabitants of Fjallbacka. Erika and Patrik are both likable characters and there is no surprise to the reader when their professional lives intersect, so do their personal ones. I like the way Lackberg introduces conflict between them; Erika is a writer and is a compulsive researcher and this often gets in the way of the police investigation. As their relationship develops, Lackberg does a really good job of juxtaposing the comforts of home and family life against the harsh realities of their external lives.
The one thing Lackberg does tend to overdo a little is her plot lines. There is always more than one sub-plot running along side the main story and so the character base can often be a little confusing! Sometimes it is hard to keep track of who knows what but she always manages to wrap the story up and reveal how the sub-plots are connected. I really enjoy the back-stories she gives her victims and their families and you really get to know the main characters well. Erika’s sister Anna and her family as well as many of the local police are explored in greater detail at one point or another. Lackberg’s books are engaging, complex and completely engrossing. She is one of my favourite crime authors and the wait from one year to the next for the following book is far too long!!