I am a big fan of crime fiction, no really, I am. I love the Lincoln Rhyme novels (the most famous being The Bone Collector), Sherlock Holmes (esp. Hounds of the Baskervilles), and all those Agatha Christie novels. There is a Nordic crime fiction craze, however, that seems to be all the rage nowadays that I just can't seem to get the fever for. I remember reading and watching Smilla's Sense of Snow, but, there are others out there (and, I'm not even talking about that Stieg Larsson person and his books--books that I will eventually read I promise!), one such person is Camilla Lackberg. Although Lackberg has a whole series of books starring a famous over-worked detective, Patrik Hedström, her books have just recently been translated into English. I think the reason I haven't jumped on the Nordic crime wagon, is that, being an avid reader, I can feel that something is being lost in the translation of a book. In a translation awkward turns of phrase seem to get repeated, sentences seem choppy and, no matter how good the translation, the flow seems stilted.
I chose to read this book to see if the translation, by famed Larsson translator Steven T. Murray, would be any different. It wasn't. Not only do I dislike that something that is missing because of the translation, I also dislike duh duh duh scene enders and there are several in this book. Don't get me wrong I enjoy suspense and I do care what the letter said, I do care what's in the waste basket and I do care what's missing from the bedroom, I just want the fact that the writer already knows something that I'm using clues to figure out myself to be a little less apparent in the clues he/she is giving--I don't need commerical breaks. These plot points made me read the book faster than I would have liked because I wanted to see if I was right in my assumptions and they were so blatant that they got in the way of the plot. But, that doesn't mean the story (if you can get past the hard to pronounce names and places) wasn't any good.
Although this is Patrik Hedström Book #1, the main character is Erica Falck, a woman whose parents just died, whose sister is in an abusive marriage and whose childhood friend has just been horribly murdered left in her bathtub, a thin layer of ice covering her body. She spends most of her time trying to find out more about her friends life, but there are a couple of side stories (such as her sister and her abusive husband) that I found a little distracting from the main plot. I do like how Läckberg incorporates this present mystery with one from 20 years in the past. I also liked that I jumped ahead to read the ending, but had no clue what was going on because she introduces so many characters and plot points from the beginning to the end. While I like that Erica is the protagonist of the book, I don't understand why Lackberg would give her such a lead role in this book and then name the series after Patrick, as if we are following his life and not hers. I can't wait to read the rest of the series (or at least the next one) to see how that plays out. I like the idea of Ericka as a strong female role who has issues, but doesn't let those issues get in the way of the truth she is seeking. I'll be sad if that doesn't carry through to the rest of the series.
What I like most about this book is that it is set in a real place. The little town of Fjällbacka, where this, and other Läckberg novels, takes place has a population of about 1,000 people, and is most noted for being a town where Ingrid Bergman lived for a time. This story winds all around the town and Stockholm enough that I felt compelled to research the town (the map in the book wasn't really detailed enough) to see points of interest including the famed Bergman square.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a fast-paced crime drama with a few twist and turns and doesn't mind that something has gotten lost in its translation.
3 1/2 (too many little flaws to make it a 4, although this book is an excellent plane read)