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.
“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.
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