On his weekly check of a weekend home in the fishing village of Fjällbacka, an old man discovers the furnace off and the house ice cold. In the bathtub, he finds the frozen and bloody body of the owner, Alex Wijkner, an apparent suicide. He goes for help to the first person he meets, Erica Falck, a writer on a brisk morning walk before beginning work on her book and her parents’ estate. Erica is shocked to find Alex, who was her best friend at school before she seemed to draw away from everyone and then left town with her parents.
The police soon find that the death was actually a murder. Erica is drawn into the investigation when Alex’s parents ask her to write a tribute piece about Alex. As she finds out more, Erica begins writing a book about her life.
Certainly Alex has some secrets. She was pregnant, although her business partner believes that Alex and her husband Henrik had not been intimate for some time. The partner further claims that Alex had been visiting Fjällbacka on weekends to meet someone.
As Erica pokes around in Alex’s life, she meets an old school friend, Patrik Hedström, a policeman on the case. Patrik has always had a crush on Erica, and now she begins to notice what a nice man he is. Not exactly working together, they both investigate Alex’s death.
I’m not sure why I liked this novel as much as I did. Alex’s biggest secret was obvious to me from the first, although it proved to be more complicated than I imagined. The actual reason for the murder I found unlikely. The writing is on the mediocre side, although it is difficult to tell whether this is due to the translation. Certainly, there are crudities–not just literal ones like unnecessary references to bladder infections and snot, but in behaviors that are almost on the slapstick side. A lot of forehead slapping goes on, although I have actually never seen anyone slap his or her forehead.
Nevertheless, I liked this novel. It makes much more of an attempt at characterization than many other Swedish mysteries I’ve read recently, which are all much more police procedurals. The main characters are likeable, and the novel is lively. The mystery is just complicated enough to have a few surprises. I believe that The Ice Princess is Läckberg’s first book, so maybe her writing will become more polished, or the translations better, as I continue reading.