As a fan of crime fiction and thrillers, I had been hearing about Camilla Läckberg for a long, long time. Commuting in the train way back home, I always saw someone reading her books and they all seemed to be enjoying them. So, I decided to give Läckberg a try. I started with the first on her Falck-Hedstrom installment, The Ice Princess.
From The Book Depository:
In this electrifying tale of suspense from an international crime-writing sensation, a grisly death exposes the dark heart of a Scandinavian seaside village. Erica Falck returns to her tiny, remote hometown of Fjallbacka, Sweden, after her parents’ deaths only to encounter another tragedy: the suicide of her childhood best friend, Alex. It’s Erica herself who finds Alex’s body–suspended in a bathtub of frozen water, her wrists slashed. Erica is bewildered: Why would a beautiful woman who had it all take her own life? Teaming up with police detective Patrik Hedstrom, Erica begins to uncover shocking events from Alex’s childhood. As one horrifying fact after another comes to light, Erica and Patrik’s curiosity gives way to obsession–and their flirtation grows into uncontrollable attraction. But it’s not long before one thing becomes very clear: a deadly secret is at stake, and there’s someone out there who will do “anything”–even commit murder–to protect it. Fans of Scandinavian greats Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell will devour Camilla Lackberg’s penetrating portrait of human nature at its darkest.
At first, I was really atracted to the main charcter, Erika Falck: she is a middle aged woman, an average woman in fact, trying to make a living out of writing biographies of famous Swedish women and facing both extreme and everyday problems. Her parents just passed away and she is trying to deal with this new period of her life. But, as I kept reading, I started to dislike her: she was becoming the stereotype woman in nowadays’ fiction. She was Carrie Bradshaw. Suddenly, I was reading about a woman whose main worry before a date, was her weight. Sure we can all identify with some of her insecurities, but I think they became too important in the story. Of course, this all went away when the man she dated was fine with her. “Whaaaaaat??” my mind screamed as I read that. I am all for dating a man that loves you as you are, that is the only way I can concieve a healthy relationship, but the need for a man to validate you… no, thank you. Furthermore, things got worse when she spent half an hour doing her make up and, when the narration shifts to the man’s point of view, he points out how natural and beautiful she is, not wearing any make-up instead of worrying with her appearence. I found this remark as sexist as it can be, not from the character himself but from Läckberg herself. Of course, I pondered if she had good intentions, meaning that she wanted to point out how a man that loves you does not pay attention to your make up. But when I read it, I could only think: she spends so much time doing her make-up and her date can only think that is her natural state? Luckily, her date saw her as beautiful without make-up, but reading about this behavior was somehow embarrassing. I started to compare Erika to Lisbeth Salander and I saw her as a whining, superficial woman in need for a man to validate her.
Regarding the mystery, I must admit, it was quite good! It was original and it was structured into layers: the reader follows Falck and Hedstrom’s discoveries but, at the same time, Läckerg keeps certain details hidden and the characters reveal them when talking to each other. However, I thought the plot was a too much social-class biased (those who have read it know what I’m talking about) and it even reminded me of Gossip Girl.
So, I would not really recommend The Ice Princess to crime fiction fans looking for something thrilling. It does make an easy reading, especially for the beach or the train back home because it does not need much of the reader’s attention yet it keeps you engaged enough to make time fly. I do not think I will be reading the following books in this installment unless I am commuting and need something light and easy to keep me entertained. I really wanted to like it and have a new crime author to follow, but it just did not work for me.