The Gallows Bird by Camilla Läckberg

The Gallows Bird is the fourth of Camilla Läckberg’s series of crime novels, set in and around in the small town of Fjällbacka on the Swedish Coast.

It’s a series that I have grown to love, without understanding quite why, and while thinking that, maybe, I shouldn’t love it as much as I did.

Now though I have sorted things out in my head.

I had sometimes thought that the dialogue was stilted and that the characters were too straightforward. But when I read back the dialogue I couldn’t fault it. The characters spoke simply and naturally and with correct grammar. And though I could find no quirk, no eccentricity, in any of the recurring characters, I believed in them completely and really wanted to know what their futures held.

What I am trying to say is that Camilla Läckberg’s writing is completely focused on her characters and their stories. On their lives, their situations and their emotions. And that she does it very well.

She also varies her mysteries very nicely. This time around there are two very distinctive storylines.

A woman argues bitterly with her partner, storms out, and some time later is found dead in a car reeking of alcohol. Her partner is devastated, her daughter is shattered, and her ex husband is still bitter that his wife left him .

I reacted to all four characters, and I was particularly touched by the relationship between the dead woman’s daughter and her lover, as they mourned.

Real people and real emotions.

It is soon established that the death was no accident, and eventually links are made to a series of apparently accidental deaths across the country.

Meanwhile reality television has come to town. A coach load of those who have found fame in on other reality shows has arrived, to be filmed working in local businesses and interacting with the townsfolk.

This side of the story could have easily veered towards parody or cliché, but the author’s clear presentation of facts and characters meant that it was perfectly pitched. I felt concern, where I had expected to feel distaste.

The powers that be had hoped that the programme would bring good publicity to the town, but the participants are fractious and eventually a party gets out of hand and a body was found.

The investigation of both death falls, of course, to Patrik Hedström of the Tanumshede Police, and I was pleased to be allowed to watch Patrik and his colleagues at work again.

Eventually, of course, they linked the two, seemingly disparate deaths, in a very clever piece of plotting.

But before that there was routine policework, there were flashes of inspiration, and there were some lovely human details that revealed just a little more of the recurring characters.

And it was lovely to follow Patrik home, and to watch as he and his fiance Erika supported her sister in the aftermath of the events at the end of the previous book in the series, care for their infant daughter and, in between times, plan their wedding.

There were mundane day-to-day details, the sorts of scenes that are played out in so many families, and some wonderful moments. The moment when Erika, who was stressed and horribly aware that she hadn’t quite lost the extra weight she gained during her pregnancy, finally found the right wedding dress was absolutely perfect.

The Gallows Bird wraps the mysteries, the investigations, and the home lives together beautifully, and I was eager to follow all the storylines.

But it isn’t perfect. The police are still a little too reliant on Patrik’s seemingly infallible intuition, and one or two loose ends are tied up a little too neatly. I was disappointed  the cliffhanger at the end of the previous book was resolved too quickly, and potentially interesting events passed over.

And, not for the first time, I worked out who the killer was very early on. That was a little disappointing, but I was happy to spend time with the people, to see what was happening in their lives, to see how the investigation panned out.

There was high drama, and another cliffhanger at the end, so reading the next book in the series is a high priority.

That next book, The Hidden Child, has been selected for The TV Book Club. Im delighted both for the author, as her books deserve a wider audience, and for me, as I’m sure that the library will be ordering copies promptly!

Translated by Steven T Murray

8 responses

  1. Not that I need to get drawn into yet another series but I like the sound of these. Are they all translated by the same person? I get a bit picky with translators!

  2. Hello Ellie. Steven T Murray aka Reg Kleeland translated the four book I’ve read and Tiina Nunnally (his wife) has done the next book in the series.

    I find it hard to judge translations when I can’t read the language the book was written in, but I can say I’ve found the style consistent across the first four books, With the same proviso, I’ve enjoyed books that Tiina has translated too.

  3. I’ve noticed that Lackberg is starting to become very popular in my library system. I’ve had lots of people ask for her latest and noticed there was a waiting list for it. It’s made me want to read one of her books just to see what they’re like and I’m glad to hear that there is a large focus on characterization – those are my favorite type of mysteries!

  4. That’s Reg Keeland (not Kleeland). He’s also known as McKinley Burnett (eg translator of Shadow by Karin Altvegen). As Steven T Murray he translated one of the excellent Helene Tursten novels. Tiina is a very distinguished translator who under the name of Felicity David translated Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, and as Lisa Hartford the recent excellent Mercy (Jussi Adler Olsen). She’s also translated Karin Fossum.

    I really love your review of this book, I too like this series and am not sure why as it seems a bit simply written for my usual taste. I’ve read this novel (The Gallows Bird) and reviewed it for Euro Crime, but I don’t feel I got under its skin in the way you have done here. Thanks, a great review and a very good analysis of the appeal of this author.

  5. Jane – Thanks so much for this excellent review! I have a background in linguistics, so I was especially interested in your comments about the language used and the way the characters speak. I think you put your finger on it quite neatly: they speak naturally and directly. That encourages readers to “buy” them and the story.

  6. Pingback: yes, we have more links « Scandinavian Crime Fiction

  7. Pingback: The Stranger by Camilla Läckberg | Ms. Wordopolis Reads

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