The Blurb :
In the fishing community of Fjauml;llbacka, life is remote, peacefulmdash;and for some, tragically short. Foul play was always suspected in the disappearance twenty years ago of two young holidaymakers in the area. Now a young boy out playing has confirmed this grim truth. Their remains, discovered with those of a fresh victim, send the town into shock. Local detective Patrik Hedstrom, expecting a baby with his girlfriend Erica, can only imagine what it is like to lose a child. When a second young girl goes missing, Hedstromrsquo;s attention focuses on the Hults, a feuding clan of misfits, religious fanatics and criminals. The suspect list is long but time is shortmdash;which of this familyrsquo;s dark secrets will provide the vital clue ?
My Review :
Fjallbacka, Sweden, a small fishing village in western Sweden might seem like a quiet, peaceful place, but as readers of Camilla Lackberg’s previous novel, The Ice Princess, have discovered, Fjallbacka holds many secrets, some of them involving murder. Having just solved one difficult murder case, Chief Investigator Patrik Englund is enjoying a much-needed vacation, but he receives a call which quickly draws him back to the Tanumshede Police station. Patrick and his wife Erika Falck have been awaiting the imminent birth of their first child, but the crime he discovers puts an end to all thoughts of a quiet vacation. A six-year-old who has left his house early in the morning to play in the countryside has discovered a woman’s naked and beaten body. Underneath that body are the skeletons of two more women who disappeared in 1979. Autopsies prove that all three had been slowly tortured over the course of many days before merciful death interceded.
Through flashbacks to 1979, when the first deaths occurred, the story develops into a murderous saga involving the Hult family, whose family patriarch, Ephraim Hult, was a highly successful evangelical preacher, and whose two sons Johannes and Gabriel were found to have supernatural healing powers when they were children. Ephraim is now dead, and his two sons are enemies as a result of his will, with Gabriel inheriting everything and Joannes and his wife living in a shack. Their sons have taken different directions: Robert and Stefan, Joannes’s sons, commit robberies and behave as outlaws. Jakob, son of the privileged Gabriel, works with disturbed children and provides a home for his sister Linda, who does not want to live with her parents.
As one might guess from the description of the plot so far, author Camilla Lackberg spends as much time on the lives and motivations of her characters as she does on plot development, and when yet another young girl disappears from town, Patrik and his crew (which also has frictions and rivalries) realize they may have a chance to find her before she dies of the same tortures which were inflicted on the previous young women. Dozens of complications, which are revealed through the family backgrounds and psychology of the police officers, the victims, and the various members of the Hult family keep the tension high as Lackberg involves the whole community in an assortment of clues and red herrings.
Flashbacks in italics inserted throughout the present day action are told from the point of view of an imprisoned female victim from 1979, held in a cold dark place, as she reveals her thoughts while trying to cope with another day of torture. No one day is so terrible that the damage will kill her that day; it is the accumulation of tortures over many days that make her long for death. Gradually, the reader is able to identify which of the two women is telling her story first, and the sad point at which the voice changes.
Although the dialogue is often wooden and clichéd, the author’s emphasis on characters and why they behave as they do give a depth to this novel that straight action-mysteries do not usually have. Blackmail, revenge, an obsession with power, seething resentments spawned by injustice, and love and passion are all motivating forces which one sees here through the various characters, but there are also many implausibilities.
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