Shh… Don’t tell anyone, but I have a guilty pleasure (and for people out there with dirty minds, it’s nothing like that).
I’m in love with Nordic Noir books. Give me a Scandi crime thriller and I’m anyone’s. I love the mindset, the feel of the cold (even if the book is based in summer), and the downright violence that only our Scandinavian counterparts can dream up.
I discovered Camilla Läckberg’s Fjällbacka Murder series a little over a year ago now, and I have to say: whilst it may not be in the same popularity league as a certain Mr Nesbø, she comes a pretty damned close second. The books are set in a “Murder She Wrote” setting of a beautiful costal town of Fjällbacka on the west coast of Sweden, and like Cabot Cove, is completely intrinsic to the books. Throughout the series we follow the lives of the main protagonists Erica (a nosey writer), and her husband Patrik (a policeman). As you can tell, these books are very much Sweden’s answer to J B Fletcher, and just as entertaining.
The Lost Boy is the seventh book in an ongoing series and I’m just sorry that I’m not able to review the first six books for you (I’m only reviewing books on here as I finish them). However they are very much worth a read. That’s not to say you can’t just dip right in and start with this book, they’re very much stand-alone novels. I found that unlike a lot of serialised books, the back story is either explained or minimised so as not to confuse any new readers.
Camilla Läckberg never fails to surprise me.
She has an amazing knack for quality and depth in her writing; The Lost Boy is part gothic victorian story, part murder mystery. However, where the story could be melodramatic it is dealt with very sensitively. Which is probably a good thing as the main subjects of the book are broken relationships and domestic violence. There are some moments of joy, but the sorrow and sombre tone of the domestic and chilling events aren’t glossed over. I believe the haunting sadness and loneliness of the book will linger with me for a long while.
Ok, so there are always going to be people that guess the whodunnit and the twists and turns way before someone else (ok, so people, stop being so proud of yourselves if you manage that – some of us like not guessing!), but I felt that this wasn’t the case here.
It’s a meandering modern day mystery interspersed with a story from 1875. The story centres around an island called Ghost Isle where in the past an entire group of people disappeared. In the present day, Nathalie (who inherited the island) has brought her son Sam with her to the island to heal from some trauma – which we can only guess at throughout most of the story. The town council Finance Officer, Matts Sverin, is brutally gunned down for no reason, and alongside all this – Patrik Hedstrom and his wife Erica Falck are both recovering in their own ways from the traumas at the end of the previous book in the series.
Camilla Läckberg has a very unique writing style in that she is able to weave in the minutiae of peoples’ lives into the story without getting too bogged down in detail, rather it manages to enrich the story – we know these people eat! They have a TV (This ain’t no interior design magazine, TVs exist)! There’s a massive Coffee Addiction sweeping the town! (Please Sweden, open a Betty Ford for coffee addiction, these people must be permanently high). And if this book is anything to go by, she’s apparently very good at weaving in intricate layers of plot including biker gangs, drugs, women’s refuges, spas, fraud and embezzlement. And that doesn’t include being the first writer I’ve come across that manages to marry the supernatural and domestic violence, without it “jumping the shark” so to speak.
Phew, now that’s a selling point!
Ok, so I’m not going to sit here and rave and rave and rave. I don’t think all books are perfect.
I think the only low point of the story for me was the victorian instalments. Camilla Läckberg likes to use these as a reflection on modern life, i.e. nothing has changed – what happens in the present (i.e. domestic violence), happened in the past as well (no rose-tinted glasses here!), and on the whole she writes these succinctly and uses them effectively, but somehow they feel very flat in The Lost Boy. As the supernatural element went – it was actually quite good; could have been a little scarier, but then I’m the sort of boy that adores Netherfield Hall, and cut my teeth on the X Files.
My one criticism would be the “often alluded to, apparently unknown” driving force of the relationships was far too easy to guess. It felt a little too jammed in there: “I like this idea, I will crowbar this in somehow”. It didn’t sit right with me, but then you can’t have everything.
The Lost Boy is a good, solid crime read and one I believe should be treated with more respect than being thought of as just a beach holiday book.
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The Knitty Gritty:
The Lost Boy by Camilla Läckberg (ISBN 978-0007419579) from Your Local Book Seller, Amazon – of just support your local library!
The Ice Princess – Camilla Läckberg (this is the first book in the series)
The Savage Altar – Åsa Larsson