Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Camilla Läckberg, The Stonecutter

Camilla Läckberg's The Stonecutter, which arrived in the U.S. this year, is about the miseries that parents visit upon their children, and vice versa. Many permutations are given, and almost everyone in the novel is guilty of something (so there are lots of suspects). This is the third book featuring Patrik Hedström, a detective in a small town in southwestern Sweden. His partner Erica, has just had a baby (and the baby is making her miserable in the ways that babies do). A young girl's body is brought to the sea's surface, caught in a lobster trap, and Patrik is thrown into the investigation of her disfunctional family and various possible perpetrators.

Along the way there are other, less dire crimes, and occasionally Erica's sister puts in an appearance--though more in a way that seems to be continuing her role in previous books and preparing for her role in a subsequent book than in any way directly relevant to the present book). A parallel story concerns a stonecutter in the area in the 1920s who falls under the spell of his employer's daughter, Agnes. Their story begins as a sort of reversed Elvira Madigan (a great Swedish romance directed by Bo Widerberg who also did the Martin Beck movie most praised by Maj Sjöwall), but Agnes is a particularly poisonous character and I found myself growing tired of this historical aspect of the mystery (a reader will probably figure out along the way what the relevance is to the present-day mystery.

There are a couple of crimes of opportunity that seem a bit contrived (a character is at the perfect place, and with the necessary "equipment" at a perfect time), and there's a good deal of fumbling around by the less effective detectives on the small-town force, along with the requisite incompetent boss--who also has a subplot that is relevant to the parents-and-children theme but not to the story per se.

I heard the Audible recording of The Stonecutter, rather than read the book on paper, and I found myself getting a bit impatient. If I'd had pages in front of me I might have started skipping ahead. Still, the story is well constructed, and its "cozy" setting is nicely contradicted by some of the family horrors concealed behind closed doors. Läckberg is not my favorite of the current crop of Scandinavians, and this book could have used a bit of trimming, in my opinion, but I'll still line up for the next one.


Maxine Clarke said...

Nice review, as ever, Glenn. I liked the two women friends in this one (Erika and her neighbour). But I thought the historical sections too soap-opera-ish, and I wish Patrick were a bit brighter! Like you, she's not my very favourite Scandinavian author but I do like her books.

kathy d. said...

I tried to read this and couldn't. I heed Marilyn Stasio, book reviewer for the New York Times Book Review, said that and I'm paraphrasing, that having Swedish citizenship did not a writer make, referring to Lackberg.

I'm afraid I concur on that, although it's probably awful to say that. But I just don't get it, the publishing and reading here.