Today we’re pleased to have a guest post from one of our regular reviewers Laura Pearle, who is here to discuss Camilla Läckberg’s fantastic series of mysteries. Take it away Laura:
Readers of mysteries know that small towns are deceptive – they’re not the safe places they should be. Just look at St. Mary’s Mead and Cabot Cove, with murder rates that rival New York City’s. And those friendly neighbors? You never know what deep dark secrets the new people-next-door are hiding, let alone the sweet old lady down the street who has lived there for decades. Camilla Läckberg’s Fjällbacka is yet another of those picturesque former fishing villages-turned-tourist destinations that on the surface looks nice but behind closed doors…
In the series opener, Ice Princess (Pegasus, 2010) Erica’s childhood best friend Alexandra is found, wrists slit, frozen beneath the ice in the bathtub of her childhood home. Inadvertently drawn into the investigation, she begins to search for the truth behind Alex’s life and in the process reconnects with Patrik Hedström, the local policeman who was one of their classmates (and who just happened to have a major crush on Erica). Over the course of the investigation, they begin a relationship that grows over the course of the series. The second book, The Preacher (Pegasus, 2011) brings us yet another strange death: a German tourist is found dead, in a grave she shares with the skeletons of two girls who have been missing for decades. By The Stonecutter (Pegasus, 2012), Läckberg has settled into a pattern: initial murder, followed by several seemingly unrelated murders interspersed with the backstory of both the (as yet unknown) murderer and victims. Patrik leads the investigation with the help of some of his colleagues and the hindrance of others, including his humorously inept captain. At home, Erica moves from being his girlfriend to his wife and they have a child (not necessarily in that order).
And now comes the newest entry into the series, The Stranger:
LÄCKBERG, Camilla. The Stranger. tr. from Swedish by Stephen T. Murray. 4. 384p. (Patrik Hedström Series). Pegasus Crime. May 2013. Tr $25.95. ISBN 9781605984254.
Adult/High School–The town of Fjällbacka has been invaded by a reality show, Sodding Fjällbacka–a version of The Real World populated by celebrities from other reality shows. One “character,” Barbie, is at the center of a rather violent argument between the roommates and then goes missing, only to reappear as a murder victim. Will the show continue shooting? Of course! Murder makes for good ratings, after all. Patrik, longtime colleague Martin, and his new colleague Hanna try to figure out who killed Barbie and, more importantly, why. This investigation overshadows the death of a teetotaler who was in a car crash and somehow had a blood alcohol level that was many times over the legal limit. Soon it becomes clear that the two deaths are related to each other and to several other mysterious deaths around Sweden. Läckberg’s is able to keep clues to the mystery hidden rather than telegraphed. And as always, the side plots of the machinations within the police department and at home with Patrik’s wife, Erica, and her family are included, lowering the tension of the growing body count. This series is being touted as an example of Swedish noir, but the addition of the less serious characters puts it into a lighter category. This is perfect for mystery readers who want a different type of police procedural or are looking for a bridge between lighter mysteries and the darkness of Jo Nesbø and Stieg Larsson.–Laura Pearle, Center for Fiction, New York City