BOOK REVIEW: THE ICE PRINCESS BY CAMILLA LACKBERG

lackberg-ice-princess

GENERAL INFORMATION

TITLE: THE ICE PRINCESS

AUTHOR: CAMILLA LACKBERG

PAGES: 393

PUBLISHER: HARPER

YEAR: 2004

GENRE: CRIME FICTION

COVER TYPE: PAPER BACK

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ice_Princess_(novel)

www.camillalackberg.com

The Ice Princess is a library book. It is Lackberg’s first novel. I have become a huge fan of Lackberg in recent months and have read pretty much all of her novels courtesy of the library.

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Returning to her hometown after the funeral of her parents, writer Erica Falck finds a community on the brink of tragedy. The death of her childhood friend, Alex, is just the beginning. Her wrists slashed, her body frozen in an ice-cold bath, it seems like she’s taken her own life.

Meanwhile, local detective Patrick Hedstrom is following his own suspicions about the case. It’s only when they start working together that the truth begins to emerge about a small town with a deeply disturbing past…

EXTRACT

The house was desolate and empty. The cold penetrated into every corner. A thin sheet of ice had formed in the bathtub. She had begun to take on a slightly bluish tinge.

HIGHLIGHTS

I love the way Lackberg structures The Ice Princess. This is a strength of all her novels. The Ice Princess is divided into six sections or six very long chapters. Each chapter features numerous short scenes that deal with all of this story threads that run through The Ice Princess. The story threads for The Ice Princess include the investigation into Alex’s murder, the development of Erica and Patrick’s relationship and Erica’s sister, Anna’s violent relationship with her abusive husband. This is a formula that works well in The Ice Princess as it has in Lackberg’s other novels. Lackberg drip feeds you the narrative in little chunks. This creates a fast pace. I felt encouraged to read on to find out how all the little threads came together. I’ve never read a novel before that uses this sort of structure.

Each of the very long chapters in The Ice Princess opens with a flashback of someone visiting Alex’s house after her murder. This unnamed person strokes her hair and reminisces about a relationship they had with her. They also contemplate being blamed for her murder by the local population. Lackberg never directly reveals who this person is but leaves enough clues for you to figure it out. I thought this was an effective way of filtering in some of the backstory without it becoming tedious. Lackberg uses similar devices in her other novels.

The characterisation was very good in The Ice Princess. Lackberg made Patrick, Erica, Anna and all the other players seem very real. I cared about Erica and her conflict with Ann and Lucas over their intention to sell her recently deceased parent’s house. I cared about Patrick’s frustration over the lack of clues in Alex’s murder. I felt Anna’s confusion over loving a man who beat the shit out of her. The characters in The Ice Princess were all real, flawed but believable. The best character was Patrick’s boss, Mellberg, chief of police. He is a bit of a dickhead and I couldn’t help wonder how such an asshole became chief of police. He was so real and believable I loved every scene this buffoon was in.

One of the strengths of The Ice Princess is the fast pace Lackberg creates. There’s so much going on for an average length novel and the drip-feed structure Lackberg uses made me turn the pages quickly to read the next thread and the next one and the one after that. I was left with the impression that The Ice Princess was twice as long as it really was but I raced through it.

The Ice Princess like all of Lackberg’s novels gets mega brownie points for plot. Lackberg tackles murder, alcoholism, suicide, domestic violence and sexual abuse. Lackberg effortlessly weaves all these threads together into an impressive, compelling fast-paced read. The Ice Princess is packed with surprises. Lackberg kept me guessing until the end. I thought I had figured out who Alex’s killer was and Lackberg pulled the rug out from under my feet. The Ice Princess reveals an unlikely sexual relationship between Alex, society belle and Anders, the town drunk but does not reveal the connection between them until near the end. They were both sexually abused by the same teacher when they were very young. Alex got pregnant to her abuser when she was only ten and this led to her family disappearing. I had no clue this was the link between both characters. I found this heart-breaking especially when Anders killed himself. I was stunned when Lackberg revealed Alex’s killer. She was an unlikely villain and my jaw hit the floor when Lackberg joined up all the threads. I love it when a writer takes me by surprise. I hate it when I know where the writer is leading me.

The Ice Princess is also set in Fjällbacka, an actual coastal village in Sweden. Lackberg was born and raised here. All of her novels are set in Fjällbacka. One of the strengths of The Ice Princess and Lackberg’s other novels is the sense of place she creates. Fjällbacka came to life on every page. The sights, sounds and smells leap off the page. Lackberg did a great job of creating a sense of living in a small community where everyone knows each other’s business and there’s really no such thing as a secret. I loved the richness of the setting.

LOWLIGHTS

There were none. I loved everything about The Ice Princess.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I loved The Ice Princess. Lackberg has become one of my favourite writers in recent months. I have now read all of her novels except her new one The Lost Boy published at the start of this month. The Ice Princess was fast-paced, thrilling and compelling with great characters and a great setting. The thing that impressed me the most was how Lackberg handled such controversial subject matter without being gory or over the top. Karin Slaughter dealt with the subject of pedophilia in one of her novels. I don’t remember the title. The novel turned my stomach. The Ice Princess did the opposite. The Ice Princess is brilliant, just brilliant.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

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