The Ice Princess, by Camilla Läckberg

>> Thursday, September 17, 2009

TITLE: The Ice Princess
AUTHOR: Camilla Läckberg

PAGES: 400

SETTING: Contemporary small town in Sweden
TYPE: Mystery
SERIES: Not sure. If it is part of one, it's the first one in the series

REASON FOR READING: Picked it up at random from the library

For the first time in English, the psychological thriller debut of No 1 bestselling Swedish crime sensation Camilla Lackberg. Returning to her hometown after the funeral of her parents, writer Erica Falck finds a community on the brink of tragedy. The death of her childhood friend, Alex, is just the beginning. Her wrists slashed, her body frozen in an ice-cold bath, it seems, at first, that she has taken her own life. Erica conceives a memoir about the beautiful but remote Alex, one that will help to overcome her writer's block as well as answer questions about their own past. While her interest grows to an obsession, local detective Patrik Hedstrom is following his own suspicions about the case. But it is only when they start working together that the truth begins to emerge about this small town with a deeply disturbing past

I had high hopes for this one, and the dramatic first pages made me think they'd be fulfilled. In a supposedly empty house, a woman is found with her wrists slashed, frozen in her bath (this is set in a small town in Sweden, were cold means cold). The woman, Alex, was a childhood friend of writer Ericka Falck, recently returned to her hometown. When Ericka visits Alex's parents to convey her condolences, they request she write an article remembering Alex's life, a short memoir piece.

As Ericka starts talking to people to understand what has become of Alex's life since they last saw each other, her interest grows more and more, and suspicions that the suicide story might not be quite right develop. At the same time, one of the local policemen, Patrik Hedstrom, has some suspicions of his own.

Unfortunately, this is a first novel and it shows. The writing and characterisation are quite awkward. I'm willing to give Läckberg the benefit of the doubt with regards to the writing, since this is a translation, but not with the characterisation. The characters' feelings and reactions just don't ring true, and you can see the author's hand very clearly, making them react in certain ways to move the plot in the direction she wants it to move, whether it fits their characters or not. Some characters were also cartoonish to the point of being laughable (Patrik's boss at the police station comes to mind).

It's a shame, because the plot had excellent bones (and quite a few cool twists), and the idea of the characters was potentially very interesting. It all just needed better execution.

And same thing for the romance between Ericka and Patrik. Patrik had a huge crush on Ericka when they were younger, and it comes back when he sees her again. He decides to pursue her, but is not quite confident about it. There are some sweet scenes of him freaking out a bit before their dates. The romance was still probably my favourite thing about the book, but it could have been a lot better.

MY GRADE: A very average C.


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