Camilla Lackberg was one of the early Scandinavian crime writers that I read. Her debut, The Ice Princess, is, in my opinion, an excellent novel. As the series developed, however, I stopped reading the books. The focus on the domestic life of the protagonist alongside the crime story wasn’t particularly to my taste. However, I had been tipped off by a Twitter friend that Lackberg had returned to form with her latest novel, Buried Angels. And he was right.
In 1974 a family in Fjällbacka, Sweden disappeared leaving only the baby daughter, Ebba alone in the house. The case has remained a mystery unforgotten by the local community. The adult Ebba returns to the property with her husband to renovate the house and mourn the loss of their child. However, their house is subject of an arson attack within days of their arrival. Detective Patrick Hedstrom is assigned to the investigation but has to contend with his wife Erica’s fascination with the tale of the family’s disappearance.
There is something compelling about the missing. A disappearance can leave confusion and loss for generations and Buried Angels mines the sense of mystery relating to the family’s vanishing. There was an overlap in a couple of the characters’ story which made parts of the narrative a little claustrophobic. Two of them have lost children, for example. However, the domesticity that had become slightly irritating seemed in proportion to a narrative that focuses on family and their dysfunctional relationships. In many ways the book is an update on the traditional mystery. There’s a confined area, a strong cast of suspects and a big reveal at the end.
The book’s strength is in the mystery that is pulled out until the last chapter or so. The writing, as usual, is clear and sharp and I managed to warm to Erica as a character once more. Lackberg is definitely back on form.
Thanks to Harper Collins for my review copy. The translation was by Tiina Nunally.