😀 😀 😀 😀 😀
Erica Falck has returned to her home town of Fjällbacka in Sweden to sort out the belongings of her parents who have recently died. But she is soon in the middle of the investigation into the death of her childhood friend, Alex, found frozen in her bathtub with her wrists slit. At first it looks like suicide, but it soon becomes clear that she was murdered. Alex and Erica had been very close as children but had grown apart as children do, and then Alex and her parents had left the town. So Erica feels personally involved in wanting to know what happened to Alex in the intervening years, and who would have a reason to kill her. The detective who’s investigating the case, Patrik Hedström, is another friend from childhood, but when they meet again after all these years their relationship quickly becomes something more than friendship.
This is the first book in the Patrik Hedström and Erica Falck series. I’d previously read a later one, The Stranger, and enjoyed it a lot, so wanted to go back and read the books in order. Quite often the first book in a series can be disappointing as so much time has to be given over to character development, and authors sometimes take a couple of books to really get into their stride. But I didn’t feel that at all in this case – this is an excellent debut, with a strong plot and with two main characters who very quickly become people the reader can like and care about.
Patrik and Erica’s new found feelings for each other are handled beautifully. There’s enough humour to stop it from being at all soppy and Läckberg makes the whole romance element quite straightforward – no bitter, vengeful ex-partner, no misunderstandings etc. The whole thing comes over as very natural and realistic and, because both characters are strong and attractive, the match feels like one that will last. I loved the way the viewpoint shifts between them so that we are able to see what each is thinking. At one point as Patrik is on his way to Erica’s, we see her rushing about desperately changing clothes and re-doing her make-up in an attempt to achieve that carelessly casual natural look – and when he arrives the view shifts to him, and we see him being completely fooled by it and thinking she’s one of these rare women who doesn’t need to try. Lovely!
By contrast, the plot concerning the reasons for Alex’s murder is quite dark, and there is a sub-plot concerning Erica’s sister who is in an abusive marriage, so there’s plenty of meat in the story. Although Erica does a little unofficial poking around, the bulk of the investigation is done as a police procedural. Fjällbacka is a tiny place, so the police aren’t used to dealing with murders, and apart from Patrik most of them would rather not have their routines disrupted. So Patrik more or less takes the case over, and we see him as a dedicated officer without any tediously maverick tendencies. On the downside, Patrik’s boss is drawn as the stereotypical incompetent bully in this book, though from memory that aspect seemed to be toned down quite a bit by the time of the later book that I read.
The translation by Steven T Murray is excellent – it doesn’t read like a translation at all, and none of the touches of humour get lost. Well written, with two likeable lead characters and a great mix of light and shade in the plot, this one has left me looking forward eagerly to catching up with the rest of the series.