Book Review: The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg

July 29, 2010
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.
  • 393 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus Crime
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605980927

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 emerge. Läckberg 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.

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I bought this book.
*Ama­zon links point to an affiliate account

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  • MelJuly 29, 2010 at 7:37 am

    I really enjoyed your review. I love these stark Swedish crime tales. My favourite so far, and I have read maybe half a dozen including first two of the Larsson trilogy, has been "Return of the Dancing Master" by Henning Mankell. I think this idea of a slow burn start must be a bit of a character trait too as Mankell is like that but by midway through I was totally hooked.I reviewed Return of the Dancing Master here: please note this was one of my earlier reviews and I think my enthusiasm got the better of any sense of structure :)I like your mention of the Google searches too that often go with getting involved with a novel. Where were we without it?Thanks again for an entertaining and balanced review. I will be sure to check out Lackberg.

  • CathyJuly 29, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    All that coffee must have something to do with the lack of sun part of the year. Since I don't drink coffee and need mega doses of sun, I don't think I'll be visiting Scandinavia in the winter!

  • booksploringJuly 31, 2010 at 3:00 am

    Great review! I agree with Cathy…it must be something to do with the lack of sun 😉 I haven't read much crime fiction…but after reading and enjoying the Millenium trilogy I'm thinking I should read some more. Will keep an eye out for this one.

  • bookspersonallyMarch 29, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Excellent review, and I think we agree on a lot! As I read the book, I wondered whether male readers would enjoy it in the same way I did – I thought then, and am thinking now – perhaps not. I understand Patrik becomes the central character in the sequels, and I’m very curious about the impact of that change that now.

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