Crime Fiction Alphabet: H is for Hidden

Camilla Läckberg’s last book, The Gallows Bird, the fourth of series of crime novels, set in and around in the small town of Fjällbacka on the Swedish Coast, ended with a cliffhanger. Going through her late mother’s effects, Erica Falk found a Nazi medal, a bloodstained shirt and some old notebooks, diaries from the war years.

That made me exceedingly curious, and I had high hopes for the next book in the series: The Hidden Child.

It begins with Erika going back to work, retiring to her study to research and write a new “true crime” book. Her husband, police detective Patrik Hedström, was beginning a period of paternity leave and the couple had agreed that it was his turn to run the house and be the full-time, hands-on parent. Needless to say, things did not run smoothly. Patrick had underestimated the demands of looking after a one-year-old, and he missed his work and his colleagues. Erika wasn’t overly concerned that Patrik’s ex-wife. another newish parent was back in town, but she was less happy that her daughter was being babysat in the police station while Patrik gave a helping hand to a murder enquiry.

And Erika found it strange, sitting upstairs, trying to work while her husband and daughter were downstairs. She couldn’t concentrate on her work, and so she began to read her mother’s diaries. She met her mother as a sociable young woman, so different from the cold, distant mother of her memory.

The history reported in Erika’s mother’s diaries and the murder that Patrik’s colleagues were investigating were linked. Erika saw that straight away and she began to investigate, seeking out her mother’s old friends, and digging for more details in the local library.

It was fascinating, seeing the young people of the diaries in old age. Much had changed, and much had stayed the same. Much was said about the effects of the war in Sweden, and the political consequences that still resonated. And there were human stories too, stories of friends, stories of families. All are well handled, and there are some wonderfully touching moments.

The plot was strong, and a little less guessable, than many of Camilla Läckberg’s mysteries. And she’s as good as ever at bringing out just the right details of domestic life, opening out the stories of Fjällbacka’s detectives, making all of her characters and their lives seem utterly real.

Camilla Läckberg writes very human mysteries. And though this book could easily be read as a stand-alone, there is much to be gained from reading her books in the right order. There’s a nice variation to the mysteries, consistency and evolution in the ongoing storylines, and after reading five I can’t pick one standout or one dud.

But I do have to say that, with this book, the story took some time to get going, and though I like the plain straightforward style, one or two things bothered me that hadn’t before. There’s a little too much exposition through dialogue, and one or two scenes were a little laboured. But as soon as the plot began to move I forgot my concerns and I was happily engrossed; and now I’ve seen the synopsis for her next book I realise that those scenes were lining up another story.

I’m hoping for another intriguing mystery, and more interesting developments in the lives of characters I’ve come to like very much.

*****

The Crime Fiction Alphabet is hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.

“Each week, beginning Monday 21 May 2012, you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week …”

So next week, I is for … ?

4 responses

  1. It was good to see your take on Camilla Lackberg. I read the first book in the series, and liked it well enough to buy the next one, but have not read it yet. I do remember that The Ice Princess was very long and seemed like half mystery, half personal story. That is not necessarily bad. Only three have been published in the US, I think.

  2. Jane – A very fine choice for the letter H. Of course, I’m biased. I like the Erica Falck/Patrick Hedstrøm series quite a lot overall. You make a well-taken point too that this is an effective way to tie the past history of the place together with the present-day investigation.

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