Title: The Ice Princess
Author: Camilla Läckberg
Translated from the Swedish: Steven T. Murray
ISBN: 9780007253937, Harper Collins UK, 2007
Genre: Police Procedural, #1 Hedstrom & Falck mystery
Source: purchased from Bookcloseouts
First Line: Eilert Berg was not a happy man.
After the death of her parents, biographer Erica Falck finds herself back in her hometown of Fjällbacka, Sweden. Simultaneously trying to go through her parents' things and finish work on her fifth book, Erica is finding both tasks distasteful. When her childhood friend is found with her wrists slashed in a frozen bath, Erica begins writing a memoir about her beautiful but remote friend in which she intends to answer questions about their lost friendship.
While Falck is conducting her own investigation, local detective Patrik Hedstrom is following his own leads on the woman's death. It is only when Erica and Patrik begin working together that the truth begins to emerge about the small town's past.
This is a mystery for those who are character-driven readers. Erica not only writes, grieves for her parents and her lost friendship with the deceased Alex, she has to deal with her younger sister and her grasping husband. Patrik is not only investigating the death of Erica's childhood friend, he has to cope with the boss from hell. Erica and Patrik are attracted to each other, and it's a romance that's well done: enough detail to make romance lovers' toes curl a bit without turning off those who prefer their whodunits with guns and no roses.
Läckberg's interest in people and motivation is clear in The Ice Princess. She also shows a great deal of skill in meting out details to keep the suspense percolating. I can't help but feel that, although she's got two great characters in Erica and Patrik, Läckberg has the most fun with Patrik's boss, Bertil Mellberg:
What she considered his most repulsive feature, however, was the atrocious comb-over he had constructed to hide his bald pate. He had let the remaining strands of hair grow out-- his employees could only guess how long they must be-- and then he wound the hair round atop his head in an arrangement that most resembled an abandoned crow's nest.
What's scary about Mellberg is that, although his characterization borders on buffoonery, Läckberg doesn't put a foot wrong because I swear I once worked with his twin!
Mellberg aside, I truly enjoyed reading this book. Läckberg is a very visual writer; Scandinavian furniture makers, interior designers and food magazines are mentioned that were totally unknown to me, but I wasn't bothered. That's what an Internet connection and search engines are for. Looking up some of the unfamiliar names helped me see with Läckberg's eyes and educated me, all at the same time. For those readers who don't care about such things, they are very easily ignored.
I deduced what had happened to Alex as a child, but that didn't take away any enjoyment of this book. Good pacing and story combined with excellent characters and motivations to make for a very pleasurable read. I am now looking for the rest of the books in this series because I just have to know about the further adventures of Erica and Patrik.