Wednesday, May 19, 2010

THE STONE-CUTTER:CAMILLA LACKBERG

UPDATE: This blog is now dormant you can read all the old posts and lots of new material at Crime Scraps Review.
http://crimescraps2.wordpress.com

The coastal resort town of Fjallbacka is again the location of Camilla Lackberg's third novel to be translated into English by Steven Murray [aka Reg Keeland] perhaps now more famous as Stieg Larsson's translator.

Erica Falck, and local detective Patrik Hedstrom, are now the proud parents of a baby girl Maja. Unfortunately Erica is suffering from a severe case of post natal depression that has left her listless and exhausted, and Patrik is not as sympathetic to her problems as he should be. Erica meanwhile has become close friends with Charlotte, another young mother, who along with her husband Niclas has relocated back to Fjallbacka, where they grew up. They have moved in with her mother, Lilian and her ailing stepfather Stig, while they look for a house of their own.
Charlotte has her own marital problems with husband, Niclas, a tall, blond attractive doctor, who is estranged from his religious fanatic father. Her mother Lilian is involved in a long running acrimonious dispute with the neighbour Kaj, whose son Morgan, a computer expert, has Asperger's syndrome.
Charlotte's life is then torn apart when a lobster fisherman finds her daughter Sara drowned. When the medical examiner finds bath water in Sara's lungs Fjallbacka's police department realises it has a child murder case on their hands.

Interwoven with this main story are brief passages of a prolonged back story involving Agnes, an attractive and spoilt young woman, and Anders, the eponymous Stone-Cutter.

Men were like apples on a tree, and she only needed to reach out her hand to pick them,....

As the investigation proceeds we realise that almost everyone involved has secrets to hide, and that the detectives are being hampered by incompetent members of their team.

I approach my assessment of this novel with some trepidation because Camilla Lackberg sells huge numbers of books in Sweden, and she does write with great understanding and skill about domestic issues. Post natal depression, spousal abuse, child abuse and public attitudes to conditions such as Asperger's syndrome are such serious issues that it is no surprise that she has a dedicated readership. These are just as valid subjects for crime fiction as the mid life crisis male alcoholism, that plays such a big part in other novels.
But I was a little disappointed with the detection part of the story, and in crime fiction the investigation should be carried out in at least a reasonably efficient manner.
I can't see any of Patrik's colleagues being rushed in to head an important investigation in Goteborg or Malmo, without considerable retraining.

The residents of Fjallbacka have such a plethora of problems, that at times it seemed as if Ms Lackberg is trying to cover too much ground, and provide too much material for one old reader to digest. While having so many suspects can be very entertaining, it was sometimes difficult to follow all the numerous sub-plots with their cast of eccentric characters.

I did however enjoy solving the not too difficult murder puzzle, and perhaps my disappointment was caused by raised expectations of a more clever plot twist at the end.

This was the fourth book I read for the six book Scandinavian Reading Challenge 2010 at The Black Sheep Dances.

4 Comments:

Blogger Margot Kinberg said...

Norman - I've heard lots of different viewpoints on this novel. I'm glad to have gotten yours, too. I always like to get different perspectives when I'm deciding whether to read a book.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Margot-thanks for your interest. Camilla Lackberg is a somewhat controversial writer, and a couple of years ago was criticised by Leif GW Persson an award winning crime writer and professor of criminology.
Here is the link to my post at the time:
http://camberwell-crime.blogspot.com/2008/08/great-northern-war.html

This may be heresy, but I think that Camilla Lackberg is not as good a writer as some other Swedish feamle crime writers such as Liza Marklund, Asa Larsson and Mari Jungstedt, but she sells more books and wins prizes so what do I know.

1:32 AM  
Blogger Maxine said...

I think this is a very fair review, Norman. I agree with your take that Camilla Lackberg is not right there at the pinnacle (eg the often-overloooked Helene Tursten, an ex-dentist ;-), as well as the other authors you mention), as she's a bit romantic/"saga" fiction as well as crime, but her books are nothing if not readable.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks, Maxine. I had forgotten Helene Tursten.

1:09 PM  

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