Review: Camilla Lackberg – Buried Angels

Buried AngelsCamilla 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.

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14 thoughts on “Review: Camilla Lackberg – Buried Angels

  1. Very interested to hear you read Lackberg’s early books and then gave up! I also did the same! I am a huge fan of scandinavian crime fiction and read most authors and love them but with Lackberg’s books I felt they became lame after the first few. I always feel a pang of anxiety when I read reviews where others rave about her and I wonder did I misjudge the books or give up too soon! Happy to discover an accomplished reader and reviewer like yourself felt the same. Glad though you enjoyed her latest.

  2. Hi Gwyneth. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Glad to find another fan of Scandinavian crime fiction. I do think some authors go through a thing patch with long running series. But it’s also nice when the books spark back to life like they did with this one.

  3. Sarah – I know exactly what you mean about the heavy focus on domesticity in this series. It’s definitely difficult to get that balance right, as of course, you don’t want your characters being one-dimensional. It’s good to hear that one strikes that balance better.

  4. Very interesting post. I have only read The Ice Princess. I have a couple more in the series, but had been put off by comments on the inclusion of too much of the personal lives of the couple. Sometimes I like that, sometimes not. Good to know that if I don’t enjoy those two, I can skip ahead to this one.

  5. I liked The Ice Princess, and picked up a couple more of the series, second-hand. I didn’t know there was so much focus on the domestic life of the main characters. It’s a hard balance to get right, and whether you are interested in them as characters outside of solving crimes! I’ll maybe hold off on getting any more, then, and hold off until this one comes out in paperback. Thanks for another great review, Sarah!

  6. I loved Camilla Lackberg’s early books, but I drifted away because they were getting a little formulaic and I didn’t care for that way she set up cliff-hangers at the end of one book only to have that story peter out at the start of the next book. I’m pleased you think this is a return to form, and I’m tempted to pick up the threads.

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