The Stranger by Camilla Läckberg

The body in the bin…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

the strangerA year or so ago, I was pretty much ready to give up on Nordic crime. Harry Hole was too drunken, Salander was too weird, and frankly the whole genre seemed too angst-ridden and downright miserable to be enjoyable…and I say that as someone hardened by years of dealing with drunks and screwed-up mavericks – all fictional, of course! At the time of my disillusionment, a fellow Amazon reviewer tried to get me to read Läckberg, promising that she was different. Finally, I’ve followed that advice – and I’m so glad I did! Patrik Hedström is that rare and precious creature – a sober, likeable, intelligent detective who works within the rules and has a happy home life. And in this story he proves that that can be considerably more interesting and much more enjoyable than reading yet one more description of binge-drinking, hangovers and cowboy policing.

When Patrik is called to the scene of a fatal car accident, it looks like a straightforward case of drunken driving. But the woman driver was teetotal and Patrik suspects that there may be more to the accident than meets the eye. Meantime the town has been invaded by a reality TV show starring a group of C-List celebs whose claim to fame is that they are willing to get outrageously drunk, party all night and have sex as often as they can, and all with the cameras rolling. This is problem enough, but when one of the celebs turns up dead in a bin, Patrik has two cases to deal with. So it’s lucky there’s a new member of the team – Hanna, an experienced and efficient officer has transferred to the district – especially since more deaths are on the way…

(source: amazon.com)
Camilla Läckberg
(source: amazon.com)

Well written, and well translated by Steven T Murray, this is an intriguing police procedural with a dark and complex plot and a satisfying conclusion. Although Patrik is the lead character, we get to know the members of his team too and their interactions add an extra layer of depth to the story. The picture Läckberg paints of contemporary Sweden is as misery-laden and angst-filled as the most ardent Nordic fan could desire, but is lightened by Patrik’s family life as he and Erica prepare for their forthcoming wedding. Although there’s clearly a running story in the background about Patrik and Erica’s relationship, this book works well as a standalone for anyone who, like me, hasn’t read the previous ones in the series – an omission I now intend to rectify. Recommended.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Open Road. I understand it was previously published under the title The Gallows Bird.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

12 thoughts on “The Stranger by Camilla Läckberg

  1. I like this series very much, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the novel. I agree with you that the novels work well as standalones, but I do hope you’ll get the chance to read the others in the series. It’s the best way in my opinion to get a real sense of the characters. And the story arcs are nicely done in my view.

    • I enjoyed it a lot and then immediately afterwards read and enjoyed an Yrsa Sigurdardottir (review tomorrow if I get around to writing it…). Maybe Nordic women are a bit less gloom-laden than Nordic men 😉

  2. I’ve not yet tried Läckberg either, but will now check what the first one is and see if I can get a copy. (I love reading in chronological order.) Have you tried either Anne Holt or Helene Tursten? I’ve enjoyed their work very much as well.

    • No, I haven’t tried either of them, but now I’m back in Nordic mode, I’ll look out for them – thanks. 🙂

      Generally, I’m a chronological reader too – it means you get to know the characters better, I feel. And there’s definitely a back story to this one around Erica’s family so I’ll be backtracking to number 1 too.

  3. Hi FictionFan, Thanks for the nice review. This is translator Steven T. Murray. If you can, read all of Camilla’s books in order; the domestic story is ongoing. I translated the first 4: The Ice Princess, The Preacher, The Stonecutter, The Stranger. Then my wife Tiina Nunnally took over and has translated The Hidden Child, The Drowning, The Lost Boy, and #8, no title yet. We’re American, but they are published in England first by HarperCollins. Welcome to the world of Camilla Läckberg’s Fjällbacka, population 800 in the wintertime. Camilla reckons she will have killed off most of them soon…

    • Thanks for commenting! Haha! That’s always the problem with setting a series in a small place. Mind you, the people of Midsomer have the same problem – half a dozen of them get bumped off every week… 😉

      I certainly will be backtracking – I enjoyed this book (and the translation) very much and was intrigued enough by the Patrik/Erica story to want to know the background. How interesting that your wife took over as translator half way through – keeping it in the family, so to speak!

      • I must admit there got to be a few too many babies in the story for my taste. Probably have to repopulate the town somehow.
        Look Tiina up on Amazon to see many more great translations.

    • I’ve just noticed – I have The Land of Dreams on my TBR pile, which I believe was translated by Tina Nunnally too…

      And I notice I’ve also praised her translation of The Blinded Man – I thought her name was familiar to me. 🙂

  4. Love this writer! Have only read The Hidden Child so far, but loved it so much that I bought everything else I could by her. Going to start them in order v.soon. 🙂

    • Me too! I’m making a determined effort to stop acquiring more review books and recommendations to give myself time to read some of these series I’ve jumped into the middle of. 🙂

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