Review: The Preacher by Camilla Lackberg

In the second of what is now 8 books (though only 4 translated to English so far) we return to the summer resort town of Fjällbacka in Sweden. Writer Erica Falck and her partner, policeman Patrik Hedström, are enjoying a few days’ holiday before the birth of their first baby. Their idyll is interrupted when a recently deceased body and two skeletons are found and Patrik must return to work early and head up the investigation. It soon becomes clear that the skeletons are the remains of two young women who disappeared in the late 1970’s and the body is that of a young tourist. Attention for the murders soon focuses on the feud-ridden Hult family, one of whom was accused of the earlier disappearances (though he died before the crimes were solved). With an incompetent boss and a couple of staff who couldn’t work in an iron lung, Patrik has few resources to help him solve the case as quickly as everyone is demanding.

I very much enjoyed this book though will concede that at least a portion of that enjoyment is sheer relief that the book contained a Swedish bloke who wasn’t a complete bastard (unlike Box 21 which I recently finished). Patrik is a really terrific character. Unlike many of his crime fiction counterparts he is no lone wolf either at home or at work. He is very wrapped up in Erica and their soon-to-be-baby and, even though his work is important, is still involved with their home life (including getting rid of their series of annoying visitors who refuse to leave the house and expect to be waited on hand and foot by the heavily pregnant Erica). At work he relies on his colleagues, well at least the functional ones like Martin, the eager young rookie and Annika who holds the office together and the teamwork they display while doing their jobs and dealing with their idiot of a boss is credibly depicted. While there are plenty of obsessed loner characters that I really like, they’re not always realistic whereas Patrik feels very real indeed.

The story of The Preacher is one I was probably destined to enjoy. I love family sagas and other people’s family feuds. Throw in a charismatic or odd religious character and you’ve well and truly hooked me. This book had all of that with the large Hult family full of complicated relationships and a charismatic preacher as part of their heritage. Although at times I thought the author had forgotten there was a crime to solve I didn’t mind too much as I was quite engrossed by untangling the family history and changing my mind (several times) about whodunnit.

Läckberg’s books are lighter or cosier than many police procedurals, so not recommended for those whose preferences are entirely at the dark/hard-boiled end of the genre spectrum. However if you like your crime fiction to be set within a fairly credible, middle-class environment that most people will recongise (even if you’ve never been to Sweden) then you could do much worse than this book. It could have done with a bit of editing but other than that it’s nicely written, has interesting characters and even a sense of humour.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I’ve reviewed the first book in this series The Ice Princess which features Erica in a more prominent role.

This book has been reviewed at DJ’s KrimiblogEuro Crime and Reading Matters

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating 3.5/5
Author website http://www.roslund-hellstrom.com/
Translator Steven T Murray
Publisher Harper [this translation 2009, original edition 2003]
ISBN 9780007253944
Length 419 pages
Format paperback
Book Series #2 in the Erica Falck/Patrik Hedström
Source I bought it

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This entry was posted in book review, Camilla Lackberg, Nordic Challenge 2011, Sweden. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Review: The Preacher by Camilla Lackberg

  1. Kathy D. says:

    Interesting. This review may convince me to try this author again. I tried to read one of her books, can’t remember the name, which shows the impression it made on me. It was quickly a DNF. I found it flat and boring with nothing to grab the reader. Oh, well, it shows that reading is certainly subjective. Am glad that you liked this book.

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  2. Dorte H says:

    Though I also liked this one, I do understand Kathy´s attitude. Läckberg is not the best Scandinavian writer though she is extremely popular. Annoyingly, there are several female writers in Scandinavia who use exactly the same recipe: married woman with plenty of family who sleuths as a hobby – and always in the archipelago. Very idyllic, but Läckberg is still the one who writes the best Läckberg books 😉

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  3. Maxine says:

    I liked this book though I don’t like religious fanaticism as a theme in crime fiction. I think Lackberg does it better here than Mari Jungstedt does in her third Gotland novel (the weakest of a very strong series). I agree with you Bernadette that the domestic realities (and responsibilities) are one of the big pluses of this series – for me anyway. I never heard that expression “couldn’t work in an iron lung” before – very colourful! Is it an Aussie saying?

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  4. Bernadette – Glad you liked this one. I know exactly what you mean about books that are about real people. And that look at Patrik’s work life is a real dose of “true life” for those who don’t work in – erm – an ideal environment. The family history angle is really intriguing, too. I’m a sucker for family stories that unfold as the book goes on. Throw in some humour, too, and I’m there!

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  5. @Kathy this may not be to your taste…it’s lighter…bit more like a cosy (though not at all twee). I thought it made a nice change and I liked the sense of humour but that is such a subjective thing

    @Maxine…er…now I feel guilty. That ‘couldn’t work in an iron lung’ is just a saying I have heard for years…but when you asked I went and looked it up in my book of Australian idioms and it seems it was first said by comedian Barry Humphries (who is also Dame Edna Everage) and he was being mean to poms (what Aussies call English people who come here). What he said was ‘Work! Brits couldn’t even spell it. Bloody poms couldn’t work in an iron lung’. I’ve never heard it said that way – to be honest it’s usually being said about people like me (i.e. oh they’re a public servant, they couldn’t work in an iron lung). Of course I realise now that most people under a certain age would have no clue what it means having no idea what an iron lung is.

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  6. Maxine says:

    Thanks, Bernadette – makes perfect sense. I’m a longstanding Bazza fan (remember him from his comic strip days in Earls Court and have seen many of his Dame Edna west end shows in the 1980s/90s). We can take the insults! Though I agree many people would not have heard of an iron lung these days. “Couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag” does not have quite the same ring 😉

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  7. Kathy D. says:

    And the other side to that figure of speech is that people who have had polio or had loved ones with the disease would feel badly from another angle.

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  8. JoV says:

    I’ll the skip the review for the time being because I have this on my shelf together with “Ice Princess”, love the glossy covers of both! I’m glad that you mentioned it is cosy and that you liked it.

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  15. Bes Nikki says:

    Im normally into romantic books but thought id give crime a try, i thoroughly enjoyed and towards the end i SERIOUSLY couldn’t wait to find out the killer… always thought it was the grandfather (somehow still alive)… But would hugely recommend it. I now plan to read Camilla Lackberg first book!

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