[From the front flap]
'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 she has taken her own life.
Erica conceives a memoir about the beautiful but remote Alex, one that will answer questions about their lost friendship. 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.....'
Fjallbacka, on the west coast of Sweden, is another of those small towns where rich people from the city buy up the nice houses and then live in them for just few weeks in the year. The Ice Princess Alex, cool, blonde and beautiful appears to have been in an unlikely relationship with the local drunken slob Anders Nilsson, who is a talented artist, and naturally he becomes the main suspect.
But there are numerous other possible suspects including Erica's old boyfriend Dan, her English brother-in-law Lucas, Alex's husband Henrik and local business man Jan Lorentz.
The sub plots involve the burgeoning romance between Erica and Patrik, and the abusive relationship of Erica's sister Anna and her husband Lucas, who is forcing them to sell their parents house.
Every small town seems to have secrets and hidden relationships and the death of Alex will expose those in Fjallbacka with devastating results.
The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg, translated from the Swedish by Steven T. Murray, was the first of her four books that became Swedish No 1 best sellers.
It is a very gripping and addictive read that gets better and better as the author peels away the layers of the tangled relationships to uncover the shocking truth.
The story deals with Erica's romance with detective Patrik in a sensitive way showing great insight into how those in their mid 30s with past histories would still react like star struck teenagers in that situation. There is even a little humour unusual for Nordic crime fiction in the character of the incompetent bombastic police chief Mellberg.
The plot is suitably convoluted and full of suspense, and one blurb calls Camilla Swedens's new Agatha Christie.
The final disclosure is shocking and I doubt even the most well read crime fiction aficionado would be able to guess the full solution to Fjallbacka's secret. Then why do I rate this novel below my top reads this year.
Well firstly the narrative switches from one point of view to another and then to another and I found this disconcerting. Also the male characters apart from Patrik are uniformly unpleasant, and in fact three of the characters seem like clones.
But once again I am impressed by the depth of Swedish crime writing and my minor criticisms of The Ice Princess are probably caused by the fact that the book I read previously was the superb Echoes From the Dead [Skumtimmen in Swedish] by Johan Theoren which won the Basta Svenska Debut in 2007.
A note on blurbs:
The English version of The Ice Princess has a blurb on the front cover which says,
'Heart-stopping and heart-warming' Val McDermid.
Now this book is far from heart-warming in its subject matter, and the relationship that does qualify as heart-warming occupies only a very small fraction of the 393 pages.
Do blurb writers read or skim the book?
Do editors cobble together a blurb from a series of comments without considering if they give a true picture of the novel?