Tuesday, March 29, 2011

50 Books in a Year: Book #15 The Ice Princess

The Ice Princess
Camilla Läckberg

Nordic Crime Fiction
Free Press, March 2011
Trade Paperback, 416 pages
ISBN-10: 1451621744
ISBN-13: 9781451621747

          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)

Websites of Interest
Camilla's Top Ten Swedish Crime Novels
On Good Reads
Official Website
Top 100 Crime Novels According to Wikipedia

I received this book for free for review from Free Press Blog Tours.


  1. Hi Stephanie- enjoyed your review! I didn't know anything about the rest of the series, interesting that Patrik becomes the center- though I must say I really liked him :D

  2. Hi Stephanie...didn't know that about the series, either. Also, I agree with your assessment that the writing seemed a little choppy and awkward in some places; I don't know if that's due to the translation or the original writing style. A good page turner, nonetheless, and a very involving read.

  3. I thought there was a strong shift from Erica to Patrick as the main characters somewhere in the middle. Erica is hardly involved in the investigation by the end.

    I also agree with your assessment of the translation. Not the best. I've read other translations that are simply beautiful but this one doesn't quite work. I'm going to assume that Lackberg is better in Swedish.

  4. Sometimes translations of the same book are really different from each other. I have a friend who works translating Japanese - English (mainly for business) and says that his translations are always waffly and descriptive whereas some of his coworkers translations are more snappy. It's a fine line to tread, I suppose.

  5. Enjoyed reading your perspective. Really translations does matter and sometimes during the process the original writer's veiw gets unexpressed.

    Thanks for dropping by.

  6. Great review, Stephanie: Would-be readers can make a solid decision based on your thoughts.
    I agree that the prose style here was pedestrian, but I didn't find it entirely off-putting as the focus seemed to be on the mystery itself.
    And to continue the comment thread above, I thought that the narrative turned to a dual perspective a bit after 1/2 way through, but since Lackberg had introduced us to a multiplicity of 3rd person perspectives early on, and because Patrick was such a sympathetic character, I didn't particularly mind it.
    Despite its flaws, I thought that The Ice Princess was better than your average crime mystery novel. How about you?

  7. Hey Stephanie, thanks for dropping by my blog. Great review! I think your right about something being lost in translation. I can imagine that it would be all to easy to loose the essence of what the writer is trying to express. Even though I couldn't connect with this story, I wouldn't hesitate to read something else by this author.

  8. Great review, Stephanie!
    I agree with you and the others...something got lost in the translation.

    Here's mine:



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