Book Review: The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg

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Book Review The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg
The Ice Princess” is an intrigu­ing crime fic­tion novel by Swedish author Camilla Läck­berg.  The novel tells about writer Erica Falck who comes back to her home­town, a small fish­ing vil­lage, only to find her child­hood girl­friend, Alex, dead.  At first it seems that Alex has com­mit­ted sui­cide, but then the story takes some twists and turns and what seems to be a clear cut case turns out to be any­thing but.

Enter police detec­tive Patrik Hed­strom and his bum­bling col­leagues at the Tanumshede police sta­tion.  Patrik fol­lows his own clues and intu­itions about the case, while falling in love with Erica, whom he had a crush on since child­hood.  Work­ing together, Patrik and Erica (who is plan­ning a book about the mur­der while suf­fer­ing from writer’s block) start to piece together the truth about Alex.  The dark secrets which inhibit every small town start to emerge and the peo­ple who would like those secrets to remain buried begin to surface.

Both Patrik and Erica are well devel­oped, inter­est­ing and like­able char­ac­ters.  The plot is very good and gets bet­ter as the char­ac­ters of Fjäll­backa start to immerge. Lack­berg does her best to build sus­pense and grad­u­ally lets out secrets about the com­mu­nity in gen­eral and about the mur­der specifically.

I found the set­ting of a claus­tro­pho­bic small fish­ing town of Fjäll­backa to be the most intrigu­ing char­ac­ter.  Läck­berg does a mas­ter­ful job cap­tur­ing the feel of a small town with lots of bad his­tory to bury, where every rip­ple causes a big effect in the lives of many peo­ple.  The seem­ingly idyl­lic town, where rich peo­ple flock to buy sum­mer houses for peace­ful, rest­ful and pleas­ant vaca­tions, holds many dark rid­dles which the towns­folk would rather be left uncovered.

Ms. Läck­berg is a very visual writer; she describes the scenes in a few words which gives the reader a vision to work from in their own minds.  I read about fur­ni­ture mak­ers I’ve never heard about, design­ers I can­not pro­nounce, and mag­a­zines which seem inter­est­ing enough for me to look through.  Need­less to say Google worked over­time dur­ing my reading.

The Ice Princess” is inter­est­ing but I found it slow at times and had to trudge through the nar­ra­tive at sev­eral places.  The story is slow to start and the book only becomes really inter­est­ing towards the lat­ter half.  There are lots of twists and turns, sev­eral times I was dis­ap­pointed and thought I solved the mys­tery half way through the book, only to find out I was wrong – and hap­pily so.  There are no chase scenes, shoot­ings, brawls or any of the like, the plot woven together tightly with a net spread­ing around the whole sea­side town.

How­ever, the story telling is patchy with, what seems to me as sim­ply fillers.  For exam­ple, we are privy to Erica’s reflec­tions about her new romance with Patrik which did not advance the plot.  Oddly, given the filler mate­r­ial such as what under­wear to wear for a date (as if men care), it seems as though the author was rush­ing through sub­plots, where a longer book or less sub­plots might have been better.

Even though the story unfolds very slowly, the big end­ing felt rushed, a “Star Trek” end­ing if you will, where a com­plex plot is being tied up in a neat pack­age with only five min­utes of air­time left.  That’s too bad because it was anti­cli­mac­tic, and after 290 pages we deserve better.

Some of the char­ac­ters speak in a car­toon­ish way, almost robotic but I don’t hold that against the book due to the fact that it was writ­ten in Swedish and the prose could have got­ten lost in trans­la­tion.  What I do hold against the Eng­lish edi­tor and proof­reader (assum­ing there was one) is that there are mis­takes in the eBook ver­sion (“ho” instead of “no”, etc.).  Those things are sim­ply unac­cept­able in a fin­ished prod­uct – no mat­ter how fast you want to release it to the pub­lic in order to cap­i­tal­ize on the “Swedish crime fic­tion” craze sweep­ing the lit­er­ary world.

That being said, the “The Ice Princess” is a good read, not very demand­ing and an inter­est­ing “who done it”.  Even though I think the edit­ing could have been bet­ter, and the trans­la­tion more fluid, this novel is still a sat­is­fy­ing read.

Side note:
This is the sec­ond Swedish crime novel I’ve read where the police are por­trayed with such high level of incom­pe­tence (except the pro­tag­o­nist) that makes the Key­stone Cops look pro­fi­cient.  Also, as in “The Girl with the Dragon Tat­too” series, every­one drinks cof­fee, or about to drink cof­fee, or mak­ing cof­fee, or offer­ing cof­fee — all the time, at every hour of the day or night.  At first I thought it was some sort of an inter­nal joke but now I’m seri­ously con­sid­er­ing buy­ing stocks for com­pa­nies which pro­duce or import cof­fee to Sweden.

My rat­ing for The Ice Princess — 3

Zohar — Man of La Book
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