When I was five and my girlfriend Judy was four, we used to play movie stars. I was the blonde Marilyn Monroe, and she was the dark-haired beauty Jane Russell. Over the years, I confess, I have been rather disappointed that my features bore less and less resemblance to Miss Monroe. While my dress did fly up over a street grate in Paris, no photographers were present to immortalize my moment, fortunately.
After I began reading Camilla Lackberg’s third novel The Stonecutter, I immediately fell for the main character, Erica, a woman who is always a little overweight and underwhelmed by her not so perfect looks, works too hard, makes mistakes, and often misjudges people. Lackberg, a Swedish author who has four of her novels translated by a very talented Steven T. Murray (who translated Steig Larsson’s Millennium series and two novels by Henning Mankell, among many others), places her characters in her hometown Fjallbacka, Sweden, a seaside town.
Lackberg’s characters are very human and well-rounded, and many appear in each novel. Patrik is Erica’s love interest, a balding, overweight, out of shape workaholic. Her sister Anna is in an abusive relationship, and this side plot runs throughout the four novels. Erica and Anna’s mother was an unloving person, and, at the end of the fourth novel, The Stranger, Erica vows to find out why she was so cold to both girls (a cliffhanger, for sure).
Like Lackberg’s husband, Erica’s boyfriend is a policeman, and he shares the main character status with Erica. The chief of police Mellberg is generally not a pleasant person unless he has a new love interest. He constantly has to coil his hair back over his balding head, flirts with the office secretary Annika, who is happily married and doesn’t appreciate Mellberg’s humor, and is unlucky in love. He has enough redeeming qualities, however, that I don’t despise him.
Each chapter in these murder mysteries presents the story from several points of view. Generally one of the characters remains anonymous, and this is the person who is involved in the murder. Two of the novels have parallel mysteries running every other chapter, and near the end of the novels these mysteries overlap.
The Ice Princess, the first novel in the series, opens with a man finding a woman frozen in a bathtub. Because the woman had been a childhood friend of Erica’s, Erica helps the police solve the mystery of the apparent suicide. Erica is in Fjallbacka to settle her parents’ estate as they were recently killed in an automobile accident, and the second plot involves a dispute between Erica and Anna over selling the family house.
The Preacher, The Stonecutter, and The Stranger are the other three novels that have been translated so far. Each is a page turner and fun to read. I have found myself wondering what Erica and Patrik were doing when I wasn’t reading the books. I recommended the first book to my sister, who finished all four before I got to the second one.
Does anyone have a suggestion for another mystery series?