Lackberg, Camilla - 'The Preacher' (translated by Steven T Murray)
In Camilla Lackberg's crime novel THE PREACHER, Patrik Hedstrom is that most unusual of crime novel characters, a policeman with a happy home life. The setting for this book, the Swedish coastal town of Fjallbacka, remains the same as in Lackberg's crime debut, THE ICE PRINCESS. But whereas in that book Fjallbacka lay in the grip of winter, THE PREACHER places us in peak tourist season and the heat of midsummer.
Detective Patrik Hedstrom is enjoying some quiet holiday time at home with his pregnant girlfriend Erica Falck. Early one morning in a local beauty spot, a small boy discovers the dead body of a young woman and Patrik is recalled to take charge of the case. When more bones are discovered with the body of the murdered girl, the case points to events of almost twenty-five years earlier when two young women were reported missing. At that time a well known local family, the Hults, were caught up in the investigation. Its repercussions split the family irrevocably leaving them feudal and feuding. Now tensions in Fjallbacka increase as yet another young tourist disappears. Patrik and his police team are under pressure to find her before she becomes victim to a serial killer. But with the original suspect in the 1979 abductions long since dead - who can it be?
Lackberg builds the drama skilfully; interspersing the narrative of the murder hunt with short chapter flashbacks to the darkness of the missing girls' final days in 1979. Even the comparative domestic contentment of Erica and Patrik, who retain their humour even when they are besieged by unwanted guests in the heat of a holiday summer, in its own way counterpoints the darkness within the central crime. But the convoluted relationships within the Hult family and one or two plot devices and twists, introduced presumably to prolong suspense and surprise in the closing stages of the novel, I regret to say did interrupt my involvement and stretch my concentration.
The cover of this US edition quotes a review suggesting that Camilla Lackberg shares an audience with Stieg Larsson. Although they do indeed share a translator in Steven T Murray, I am not at all sure that they share the same fans. Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy depicts a world of political paranoia and embedded violent corruption on an institutional scale. Lackberg's psychologically dark murder mysteries sit alongside an altogether more domestic and sometimes humorous portrait of community. These qualities themselves are sure to attract their own US fans. If so, these fans will be pleased to know that THE PREACHER is only the second of Camilla Lackberg's successful series of Fjallbacka crime novels and they should be able to look forward to more to come.
Read another review of THE PREACHER.
Lynn Harvey, England