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Book Review – The Ice Princess (Patrik Hedstrom, Book 1) by Camilla Läckberg

September 14, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Book Description:

For the first time in English, the psychological thriller debut of No 1 bestselling Swedish crime sensation Camilla Lackberg.

Returning to her hometown after the funeral of her parents, writer Erica Falck finds a community on the brink of tragedy. The death of her childhood friend, Alex, is just the beginning. Her wrists slashed, her body frozen in an ice-cold bath, it seems, at first, that she has taken her own life. Erica conceives a memoir about the beautiful but remote Alex, one that will help to overcome her writer’s block as well as answer questions about their own past. While her interest grows to an obsession, local detective Patrik Hedstrom is following his own suspicions about the case. But it is only when they start working together that the truth begins to emerge about this small town with a deeply disturbing past!

About the author

Camilla Läckberg’s four Patrick Hedstrom novels have all been Number One bestsellers in their native Sweden. Over 1 million copies of her books have been sold in her homeland, with all four titles occupying the besteller charts at the same time.

The Ice Princess (Patrik Hedstrom, Book 1) by Swedish author Camilla Läckberg is the first book of a very successful series which follows the investigative exploits of the unlikely team of Detective Patrik Hedstrom (of the Tanumshede police) and writer Erica Falck. The Ice Princess won France’s 2008 Grand Prix de Littérature Policière for Best International Crime Novel and Camilla Läckberg has also racked up the Swedish Writer of the Year for 2005 & the People’s Literature Prize the following year. Since she’s also being hyped as the Swedish Agatha Christie internationally – I had pretty high expectations when I started reading this book.

The setting is at the sleepy & idyllic fishing town (turned tourist resort) of Fjällbacka where ostensibly nothing of note ever really happens, until the body of the beautiful art gallery owner Alexandra Wijkner is discovered dead in her bathtub. Erica is one of the first people to discover the body of her childhood friend, and she soon becomes obsessed with Alex’s life and death, while also becoming involved (in more ways than one) with the murder investigation by local policeman Patrik Hedstrom. There are plenty of suspects to go around: Alex’s husband Henrik? Alex’s mystery lover(s)? the tortured & alcoholic artist Anders who somehow had some connection with Alex? As Patrik and Erica dig for answers, explosive secrets from Alex’s past surface, secrets that have repercussions for many people in Fjällbacka. It seems that the town is the keeper of horrifying secrets and a cover-up that may well have destroyed lives, even while seeking to ‘contain’ the damage.

Maybe something was lost in translation (by Steven T. Murray who looks to be the go-to translator for Swedish authors lately), because I don’t quite get the hype? The suspense wasn’t quite that suspenseful, the plot just a bit too sluggish, the suspects not quite that sinister, and the secrets when finally revealed were not quite that shocking to me in the end. Maybe it’s me, and I’m just too jaded? Also, and I don’t know if this is also due to the translation, the dialogue always seemed stilted and awkwardly unnatural to me, especially between Erica and her sister Anna.

Don’t get me wrong, The Ice Princess is a cleverly written murder-mystery with a complex enough plot that will keep you guessing until the end. And unlike say, ‘Deception – An Alex Delaware Novel’ by Jonathan Kellerman where I went WTF? when the guilty party was revealed, in The Ice Princess, the conclusion is believable, explained well, and in fact, all the clues are there for the reader to guess right (although I did still miss the big one). And Detective Patrik Hedstrom and the author Erica Falck are delightful characters, surprisingly pretty ordinary people who suffer from the normal everyday insecurities about their weight, work and love life. And you will be very happy for them as they awkwardly fall in love with each other in the course of the book.

Rounding up the excellent characterization for Erica and Patrik are their family members, friends, co-workers, and people they interact with who are all given side-stories by Camilla Läckberg. While I appreciated the effort, and it did paint a living breathing picture of the people who populated Fjällbacka (although some characters are mere caricatures, such as Patrik’s incompetent chief of police Superintendent Mellberg and Erica’s brother-in-law Lucas), all those sub-plots also contributed to the sluggishness of the plot by breaking up the flow too much. One moment, Patric or Erica is following up an important clue, the next, we are sucked up in the drama of a minor character.

I’ve read some reviews that say that Camilla Läckberg’s later novels in the series are much better written, so maybe I’ll check them out. The other books in the Patrik Hedstrom series that I know of are The Preacher and The Stonecutter, but there are supposedly seven books in the series. Let me know if you find which ones are already translated and out.

‘The Ice Princess: A Novel’ by Camilla Läckberg (Author) and Steven T. Murray (Translator) is available on Amazon as a Kindle Edition ($9.99), Hardcover ($17.13) and Paperback.

You can also get the book at Kobo Books (just $6.59!), Barnes & Noble, Borders and the Sony eBookStore.

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