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