Camilla Lackberg, |
The Ice Princess
Let's start with a quiz. What do the nations of France, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Germany, Iceland and Spain all have in common? They are all countries whose book-buying public put Camilla Lackberg's The Ice Princess on top of the best-seller lists. In her native Sweden, a country of 9,000,000 people, she has sold 3,000,000 books and she's taken home just about every major award for crime-writing. Now, with the English language publication of this, her first novel, Lackberg is out to conquer America as well.
With the success of Stieg Larson's Millennium trilogy, Scandinavian mysteries have become an international sensation. A lot of reasons have been offered to explain this trend, but The Ice Princess demonstrates one major reason that hasn't been offered up: Lackberg's book may have been written in Swedish and it might be set in a small Swedish Coastal town, but the tale is universal.
Its plot begins simple and becomes complicated. Writer Erica Falck comes home from Stockholm to her hometown of Fjallback, Sweden, to clear out her parents house after their deaths to find that one of her earliest childhood friends, Alex (for Alexandra), is dead, the victim of a murder designed to look like a suicide. She decides to write about Alex and, as she researches her story, she begin to fall in love with Patrik Hedstrom, the detective assigned to the case. Together, they discover that the crime has its roots in the town's secret history and as they unravel it, several lives are changed.
What makes the book universal is that its Swedish small town could be any small town. The interweaving of the characters' emotional lives and the constant gossip about who is doing what to whom could come from Eudora Welty or Flannery O'Connor as easily as it could emanate in Agatha Christie. But the model I find working in the book is the great American crime-writer, Ross MacDonald, whose favorite theme we find in these pages: a crime from long ago is covered up and the resulting guilt, building over the decades, destroys or ruins the lives of several interconnected people.
At one point in the novel, Falck remarks that she doesn't like mysteries because they ignore what is best in fiction; the interrelationships among the characters. She is beyond a doubt speaking for the author, who concentrates on character development and lets the plot grow organically out of the people.
The Ice Princess is the first of Lackberg's novels to be published in the States. Read it and you, like me, will be excited about reading the rest as they appear.
Michael Scott Cain
10 July 2010
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