I've been a big fan of Camilla Lackberg's work since reading the first installment in the Patrik Hedstrom series. Nevertheless, I have to admit that her last two offerings, 'The Gallows Bird' and 'The Hidden Child', have disappointed slightly. The plots seemed to lack subtlety and the twists were fairly obvious. I am delighted to report, then, that 'The Drowning' is a definite return to form.
The mystery centres around Christian, Fjallbacka's enigmatic and brooding librarian/author.
Eagle-eyed readers will remember that we were introduced to Christian
in 'The Hidden Child', where Lackberg made it very clear that he had
some skeletons in his closet. I remember feeling frustrated at the time
that this loose end wasn't tied up at the end of that book and wondering
why Lackberg had chosen to dedicate so much page space to this
seemingly minor character, so I was happy to realise that his story was
to continue. So we pick up the narrative as Christian's debut novel is
being published and he is receiving anonymous poison-pen letters. At the
same time, detective Hedstrom is investigating the disappearance of one
of Christian's best friends. But are the two matters connected?
of this book represents business as usual for Camilla Lackberg.
Chapters are interspersed with short 'flashbacks' to the past. Bumbling
police boss Mellberg provides a source of hilarity as he inadvertently
tries to sabotage his colleagues' best efforts to identify a
perpetrator. The grizzly action is offset by cosy scenes of Patrik's
home life, where Erica is pregnant with twins. And of course a large
part of the detective work is carried out courtesy of nosy Erica, who
snoops around into other people's business more than ever before while
worrying about her lumps and bumps and eating too
always think of these books as the Erica Falck series rather than the
Patrik Hedstrom series, as every time it is her off-the-record snooping
that saves the day! To me she is the more interesting character, an
oddity amongst a sea of miserable male middle-aged leads in these
Scandinavian crime novels (not that I don't love them too!). I once read
someone else (apologies if I have stolen your analogy) refer to her
as the 'Bridget Jones of Scandinavian crime fiction' which is fairly
accurate! The reviewer in question probably did not intend that to be a
compliment but I find her quite refreshing.
Lackberg seems to
have a keen understanding of human nature and an acute eye for what
makes people tick, and this pervades 'The Drowning' as its real
strength. Even the most insignificant onlooker is brought to life and
the reader is given a real sense of everybody's personality. You get
the sense that you can relate to every single character to some degree
or see something of them in real-life acquaintances. Unlike in the
previous two books, I did not see the solution to the mystery coming AT
ALL, it was completely unpredictable but not far-fetched. And just when
you think it's all wrapped up another BOMBSHELL is dropped that will
ensure you return to Patrik Hedstrom number 7!
I would definitely
recommend this book to any fans of crime fiction, but with one caveat;
it's definitely better to start from the beginning if you haven't read
any others in this series. Unlike other crime fiction series where the
majority of the books stand alone and don't have to be read in any
particular order, these are far more enjoyable if you get to know the
characters from scratch.