The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg

ice-princess

Camilla Läckberg is a best-selling author in her native Sweden. Having read this, her debut novel, I can understand why.

The Ice Princess opens with writer Erica Falck back in her hometown dealing with the aftermath of the death of both of her parents in a car crash.

There is soon another death. Erica and Alex Wijkner were childhood friends, but they lost touch years ago. Now Alex has been found lying dead in a bath with her wrists slashed and the water frozen. It seems that Alex has taken her own life.

Alex’s parents ask Erica to write a memoir of their daughter their daughter. As she sets out on this task she quickly comes to believe that Alex’s death was not suicide – she was expecting a baby and overjoyed at the prospect.

And the post-mortem proves that the death was murder. A police investigation begins and soon Erica crosses paths with another childhood friend – detective Patrik Hedstrom.

The plot unwinds slowly and draws in a range of characters. It seems that Alex’s death is linked to dark secrets that the townspeople have buried for many years…

Lots of things to praise:

The mystery is very well constructed, with answers leading to more and more questions until an unexpected, but entirely believable conclusion is reached.

The cast of characters is wonderful and Camilla Läckberg’s psychological insight is spot on.

The sense of place is wonderful too.

Just one negative:

Too much time is on Erica’s personal life – her developing relationship with Patrik and her sister’s abusive relationship with her husband.

Those sub-plots are well executed and provide some interesting moments, but they feel mis-matched with the main storyline.

The strength of the crime writing carries the day though. The Ice Princess feels like the start of a series, and I look forward to the next installment.

Translated by Steven T Murray

13 responses

  1. Hi Fleur,

    I too was not as interested by Erica’s personal life, but this is one of the things that has made Camilla so popular in Sweden, especially among young mums. It remains a running theme in her other books as well, along with Anna, who by book 3 gets into exciting territory herself. Stick with it! And thanks for mentioning my name; translators are too often invisible unless someone has a gripe.

    “Reg”

  2. Bermudaonion – I’d certainly recommend The Ice Princess.

    Hedgie – Thank you – I’ve ordered a copy from the library.

    Reg – I have no problem with the mix of ingredients, it maybe just needs a little refining. I’ll certainly reading the next book. Many of my favourite crime writers become more interesting through a series of books – Dorothy L Sayers is the classic example – and I have high hopes for this series. It’s difficult to comment on a translation when you only read one language, but I can say there was nothing to remind me that I was reading a translation – and in this case invisibility indicates a job well done!

  3. This one is in my TBR-pile (in Swedish, though), but I’m really happy to hear that the English translation seems good. I’m always wary of recommending Swedish books to friends, just in case the translation is bad…

    /Eva – fellow OT-er

  4. Hmm, it seems my comment never appeared…

    Anyways, just wanted to say that I’m happy to hear that the translation seems good. I’m wary of recommending Swedish writers, just in case the translation is iffy. Bit of weird national pride… 🙂

  5. Eva, I think you can trust most of the translators of Swedish crime these days, now that it’s so popular in English. The bad ones are quickly weeded out… Check the sales figures on Amazon, which will give you a hint which books are a good read in English.

  6. Hi all, I would certainly recommend Karin Alvtegen’s books for those of you who like psychological suspense. One is nominated for an Edgar this year (Missing). I did the last 3, Betrayal, Shame, and Shadow. (Interestingly enough, in Swedish her titles all begin with S. I wonder how long she can keep that up.)

  7. Reg – Thank you for the recommendation. I have added Karin Alvtegen to my wishlist and I have Mari Jungstedt on order – her titles all seem to begin with U in english!

    Now that I have reflected on The Ice Princess a little more I can say that I would happily recommend it to anyone in search of a good crime/mystery novel. My one concern was the balance between personal stories and the mystery element. On reflection though this was always going to be tricky in the first book in a series with characters to be established as individuals and then moving forward into a relationship. I am confident that now things are in place The Preacher will have the balace right. I’m looking forward to it!

  8. Well Fleur, I can’t say that there’s less personal stuff about Erica and Patrik in the 2nd one, but the crime plot is certainly more complex.

    My wife Tiina Nunnally translates Mari Jungstedt, and the English titles are from the publishers. The literal translations from the Swedish are: The one you do not see (Unseen) / In this quiet night (Unspoken) / The inner circle (same in US, Unknown in UK). These are good books, set on the island of Gotland in the Baltic. Read them in order.

  9. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: March 14, 2009 at Semicolon

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