Title: The Ice Princess
Publisher: Harper Collins [original edition 2008, this edition 2009]
Length: 393 Pages
30-something author Erica Falck has returned to her small hometown in Sweden to take care of her parents’ house and possessions after their tragic deaths. While there, the body of her childhood friend Alex is discovered in the bathtub. Police treat the death as a suicide but Alex’s parents do not believe their daughter killed herself and they beg Erica to write a glowing article about her. As Erica interviews various people important in Alex’s life she starts to uncover some of her secrets and when it’s confirmed that Alex couldn’t have killed herself the police also start investigating. Patrik Hedström, another childhood friend of Erica’s, is the lead investigator and he and Erica soon join forces and start a personal relationship too.
I’m going to start my review talking about the translation which is a feature I often overlook unless it’s not done well. This is terribly rude of me because I am sure it is a very difficult thing to get right. I imagine it’s even more difficult to capture the subtleties of both languages well enough to translate humour which Murray has done to perfection here. Not only is there an over-the-top laughable character, in the form of Superintendent Mellberg, but there’s a lovely gentle humour in Erica’s internal dialogue as well as in some of her conversations with Patrik and I think it’s a sign of excellence in translating that I kept forgetting the story wasn’t originally told in English.
And it’s a really good story. There are so many layers to it that I soon gave up thinking I’d worked something out because whenever I did a new discovery would be made that took the story in another unpredictable direction. Somehow all these twists and turns managed to feel completely natural though, as I never felt that sense of being manipulated that some twist-y books give. The resolution was at least partially unexpected and quite satisfying in the way it wrapped things up. I particularly liked the way the novel was bookended by two vignettes about a man who barely featured in the rest of the story. I could have done with a little less of the teenage-like romance between Erica and Patrik but it was quite nice to see at least one relatively normal relationship depicted among the couples of the town.
Both Erica and Patrik are well developed and quite credible characters although Erica does do a couple of things which could have screwed up the investigation and I thought Patrik was a little too accepting of her meddling. Some of the other minor characters are quite brilliantly drawn and I found myself developing a real picture of this small group of people who’d been connected in one way or another for 25 years.
It’s virtually impossible to categories this book neatly into any of the crime fiction sub-genres as it contains elements of a police procedural, psychological thriller and even a hint of the amateur sleuth ‘cosy’. Whatever label you give it though ultimately it did what all good books should do: kept me engaged from beginning to end. If you like a book that focuses on people and what makes them tick (and kill) and doesn’t have a lot of blood and gore then I heartily recommend this one.
My rating 4/5
Reviewed by Norm at Crime Scraps (who along with his excellent review also makes some pertinent points about book blurbs and their often total lack of connection to the book they are blurbing about), Karen at Euro Crime and Glenn at International Noir Fiction.
Läckberg’s second book translated to English, The Preacher, was released this year (and will be making it to my TBR pile just as soon as I can afford another virtual trip to Book Depository).