Monday, May 9, 2011

Book Review: "The Ice Princess" by Camilla Läckberg

Swedish author Camilla Läckberg's first mystery to be published in the US, The Ice Princess, is a suspenseful and compelling read. Set in the Swedish coastal town of Fjällbacka, the book follows well-known biography author Erica Falck, who has returned to the town after the tragic death of her parents in an accident. She plans to stay for a while to get their affairs in order and finish her latest book. One day while on a walk, she is flagged down by an elderly caretaker who has found a disturbing sight—the body of a woman lying in a bathtub of frozen water and blood. It turns out this woman was Alexandra Wijkner, Erica's best childhood friend, from whom she was inseparable, until they were 10 years old, when they inexplicably drifted apart and Alexandra's family moved away. For a woman who appeared to have everything—a successful art gallery, a handsome and wealthy husband, a beautiful and historic home—the idea of Alexandra committing suicide seems difficult for anyone to fathom.

Erica is asked by Alexandra's parents to write an article about her for the local newspaper, and as she does research into her life since their friendship ended, she becomes convinced that Alexandra's death might not have been a suicide after all. She also tries to figure out why Alexandra drifted away all of those years ago. Teaming up with Patrik, another childhood friend who is now a police detective, she begins to discover that the case isn't as clear cut as it looks, and there are many secrets many people in Fjällbacka want to leave hidden.

I feel a little bit of pity for any Swedish author whose work gets publicity in America, because they all get compared to Stieg Larsson. And in fact, a blurb on the cover this book says, "Stieg Larsson fans who give this book a chance will be rewarded." I enjoyed this book, but it's nothing like Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, so don't go into this book expecting that. However, many of the characters are richly layered, and while some of the secondary characters were a little too clichéd for me, the plot took some very interesting twists and kept me flipping pages fairly quickly. Erica wasn't your typical accidental detective and certainly was far from omniscient, and that made her curiousity about the case even more interesting. Apparently this is the first of seven books Läckberg has written about Fjällbacka (I know at least the next one features Erica and Patrick), so I'm definitely going to keep reading them. If you're a mystery fan, you'll probably enjoy this.

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