James Thane's Reviews > The Ice Princess

The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg
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Jul 18, 2011

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bookshelves: crime-fiction, suspense
Read in July, 2011

Beginning with her 2002 novel, Isprinsessan, Camilla Lackberg has been a popular crime fiction novelist in Sweden. In an obvious attempt to capitalize on the current wave of interest in Scandanavian crime fiction in the U.S., Lackberg's first novel has now been published here as The Ice Princess.

Erica Falck, a writer, returns to her small hometown of Fjallbacka, a Swedish fishing village, to deal with family matters in the wake of her parents' deaths. No sooner does she arrive, though, when her best childhood friend, Alexandra Wijkner, is found dead, frozen in her bathtub, an apparent suicide. Alex was a beautiful woman, married to a successful, caring husband and appeared to have a wonderful life. The two women lost touch years earlier when Alex and her family mysteriously left town in something of a hurry, but even though they had not been close for years, Erica cannot imagine why her old friend would have taken her own life.

Erica's first instinct is to write a book about Alex's death. Her second is to join forces with another childhood friend, Patrik Hedstrom, in an effort to unravel the mystery. Patrik is the principal detective investigating Alex's death. It soon becomes apparent that the small town of Fjallbacka has a lot of deep, dark secrets, some of them dating back for years, and Erica is determined to root through all of them to uncover the truth about the death of her friend.

Inside this four-hundred-page book is a lean psychological thriller struggling to break free. The basic plot is interesting enough, although a lot of readers will usually be at least one step ahead of our heroine. The problem is that there's an awful lot of navel-gazing that one has to wade through. Every few pages the action screeches to a halt while one or another of the characters examines his or her emotional state, and after a while this gets pretty tedious. The characters are also very uneven. Some of them are very well-drawn, complete and interesting; others not so much. There is one central character in particular who's a totally unbelievable cartoonish caricature unworthy of being included in a serious novel. There's also a totally unnecessary subplot involving Erica's sister that intrudes into the story on a regular basis.

My other main concern with this book is that the police procedure is often laughable. The police miss obvious clues and neglect to take even basic steps in the investigation, leaving Erica to make discoveries that the detectives should have made very early on. Patrik also allows Erica, a civilian, to take a role in the investigation that no real police detective would ever countenance.

Toward the end, the book finally gathers steam and Lackberg produces a fairly interesting and entertaining conclusion. But it does leave one with the distinct impression that this would have been a much better book if the author had gotten to the conclusion a lot earlier.

The cover suggests that fans of Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell "will devour" this book, but Lackberg is clearly not in their league--at least not yet. Several others of her novels are soon to be available in the U.S. and perhaps they will demonstrate more conclusively that she is moving to fulfill that claim.
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