BOOK REVIEW: THE STONE CUTTER BY CAMILLA LACKBERG

the-stone-cutter

GENERAL INFORMATION

TITLE: THE STONE CUTTER

AUTHOR: CAMILLA LACKBERG

PAGES: 480

PUBLISHER: HARPER

YEAR: 2011

GENRE: CRIME FICTION

COVER TYPE: PAPER BACK

www.amazon.co.uk/Stonecutter-Patrik-Hedstrom-3/dp/0007253974

www.camillalackberg.com

BLURB FROM THE COVER

The remote resort of Fjällbacka has seen its share of tragedy, though perhaps none worse than that of the little girl found in a fisherman’s net. But the post-mortem reveals that this is no case of accidental drowning.

Local detective Patrik Hedström has just become a father. It is his grim task to discover who could be behind the methodical murder of a child both he and his partner, Erica, knew well.

He knows the real question – and answer – lies with why. What he does not know is how this case will reach into the dark heart of Fjällbacka and the town’s past, and tear aside its idyllic façade, perhaps forever.

EXTRACT

The lobster fishery was not what it once was. Back then, hard-working, professional lobstermen trapped the black crustaceans. Now, summertime visitors spent a week fishing for lobsters purely for their own enjoyment. And they didn’t obey the regulations either. He had seen plenty of it over the years. Brushes discreetly used to remove the visible roe from the females to make the lobsters look legal, poaching from other people’s pots. Some people even dived into the water and plucked the lobsters right out of the pots. Sometimes he wondered where it would all end and whether there was any honour left among lobstermen. On one occasion there had even been a bottle of cognac in the pot he pulled up, instead of the unknown number of lobsters that had been stolen from it. At least that thief had some honour, or a sense of humour.

 

OVERALL IMPRESSION

 

I thought The Stone Cutter was a great novel. I’ve become a huge fan of Lackberg in the past couple of months since I started to check her novels out of the library. The Stone Cutter contributed to my impression of Lackberg as an original and very good crime writer. I loved all the twists and turns in the storyline and the different directions Lackberg leads her readers before veering off to somewhere else completely. I love it when I don’t know what the hell is going on and a writer keeps me guessing until the end. As I read through The Stone Cutter I had about half a dozen possible murderers in mind. I had no idea who the villain was and Lackberg stunned me when this was revealed. I liked the characters in The Stone Cutter a lot more than Lackberg’s other novels. Lackberg shows us a side of Erica and Patrick that she only offers little hints of in the other novels I’ve read. The Stone Cutter, like Lackberg’s other novels ends with a cliffhanger that sets the scene for the next novel.

REVIEW

 

I really like the title of the novel. The Stone Cutter fits the novel very well and is linked to events from the past that play a pivotal role in the present events.

I thought the characterisation in The Stone Cutter was great. Lackberg shows us a much more human side to Erica and Patrick than other novels. Erica has just given birth to her and Patrick’s first child, Maja. Erica is having a hard time adjusting to motherhood and Maja’s constant demands for attention. In other novels I’ve read Maja has been older or Erica has been pregnant for the second time. I liked the way Lackberg showed a different side to her character. There are hints in The Stone Cutter that Erica might have a touch of postal natal depression. I don’t have any children but felt Lackberg painted a realistic portrait of the experiences of a new mother. I also like the way Lackberg portrayed Patrick in The Stone Cutter. In other novels he’s a more experience police office and father so he’s more mature somehow. Lackberg shows his vulnerable side in The Stone Cutter as he struggles to make any headway in the murder investigation of a young girl pulled out of the sea by a fisherman.

Like other Lackberg novels, I really liked the way The Stone Cutter was structured. Lackberg moves the narrative back and forth in time from present events to events in the past starting in the 20’s. The chapters alternate between the past and present.  In the chapters set in the present, Lackberg offers us little snippets of all the different story threads. These include the investigation into the girl’s murder, Erica struggling with being a new mother, the events from the past that led to current events and the feud between the family of the murdered girl and their arrogant neighbour. Each chapter only offers a couple of pages from each thread. This is the structure of all her novels and I really like it. The structure compelled me to read on. The chapters set in the past were also only a couple of pages long allowing Lackberg to drip feed the backstory without boring readers.

I liked the way Lackberg explores the concept of neighbours in The Stone Cutter. The grandmother of the murdered girl and her neighbour has been feuding for years. The feud has been pretty nasty at times with various nasty names and petty police complaints and ridiculous accusations on both sides. I found the whole thing quite amusing. I can’t imagine getting so riled up about nothing much. This is a subject I’ve not really seen explored in fiction before.

The Stone Cutter deals with child abuse. The investigation into the girl’s murder reveals that one of the suspects is part of a paedophile ring. This is nothing to do with the murder but something the police stumble into during their investigation. The suspect is subsequently arrested when one of his victim’s commits suicide and names him in his suicide note. Lackberg does a good job of writing about this controversial subject matter without being sensational or crass.

The Stone Cutter also deals with behavioural problems. The murdered girl was diagnosed with DAMP syndrome, an anti-social behaviour disorder. The son of one of the suspects was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. It’s very rare to read fiction that deals with these sorts of behavioural disorders. I was impressed by the way Lackberg handed this without being judgemental or preachy.

I had no idea who the killer was in The Stone Cutter. I had about six different suspects at one point and none of them were right. Lackberg really took me by surprise when she revealed the identity of the child’s killer and the disturbing links to the flashbacks woven throughout the narrative. I love it when a writer pulls the wool over my eyes.

I really like the fact Lackberg sets her novels in Fjallbacka, a remote part of Sweden. The territory and country are unfamiliar to me and I like to be taken somewhere completely different now and then. Like her other novels, I got a real sense of place from The Stone Cutter.

FINAL THOUGHTS 

The Stone Cutter is an impressive example of how good crime fiction can be without resorting to blood, guts and gore. Lackberg is a skilled writer. The Stone Cutter was fast paced and full of interesting twists and turns.

RATING

4-star-rating

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