This is the fourth book in the Erica Falck – Patrik Hedstrom crime fiction series by Swedish writer Camilla Lackberg (Swedish: Läckberg). As in the other books in the series, the story is set in the idyllic little towns of Fjällbacka and Tanumshede, small places in south-west Sweden. These are places Camilla Lackberg knows well – she grew up there. But they are small, and by now Camilla Lackberg must have killed off a very significant proportion of the population in her series.
Patrik (police detective) and Erica (writer) met in The Ice Princess, but now they are living together and have a new, cute little baby. They are about to get married.
In The Gallows Bird, Patrik is called to the scene of a car accident where a woman, Marit Kaspersen, is found dead. Seemingly she is the victim of a tragic car crash. Since the car smells of alcohol it is assumed to be case of drunken driving. However, Marit Kaspersen didn’t drink. And it seems she had a lover and that her husband was jealous. And the autopsy reveals bruises around the mouth, signs that liquor has been forced upon the driver. Perhaps the assumed accident is a murder?
Then a spectacle arrives in Tanumshede and creates turmoil in the community: A bunch of people participating in a reality TV-show that is to be filmed there. Many people in the city are delighted with the nationwide publicity, but it isn’t so easy for Patrik and colleagues to cope with the fall-out. As cameras shadow the stars’ every move, relations with the locals are strained to breaking point. The participants behave outrageously and manage to alienate the locals. When one of the show’s participants is found murdered, is gets more complicated for Patrik and his colleagues.
Now the little town really attracts the attention of the media, and the investigation receives much too much attention. As the country tunes in, the bodies mount up in Fjällbacka, while Patrik faces his toughest investigation yet under the intense glare of the media spotlights!
Suddenly a piece of evidence reveals that the two seemingly disparate homicides are linked. It also becomes clear that there is a pattern of similar deaths over a period of time and in different parts of the country. Patrick is forced to realize that these cases are closer to home than he thought.
The Gallows Bird is a pleasant and easy read. The characters are well rounded – moody, make mistakes, seem alive – and Camilla Lackberg adds side stories about Patrik and Erica, their new child, the marriage, and so on, that are told with warmth, are interesting to readers who follow the series and add depth to the characters. The mystery is interesting as well, and the plot is relatively unpredictable but not among the best in this otherwise very good series. The Gallows Bird in an interesting, suspenseful and entertaining read that I recommend.
Praise for Camilla Lackberg:
‘Lackberg is an expert at mixing scenes of domestic cosiness with blood-curdling horror! a must for white-knuckle junkies’ — Guardian
‘Lackberg is particularly good at portraying the claustrophobia of a small community in which everyone knows everyone else and the police may well be friends with killers’ — The Times
‘As with earlier books, there is an adroit manipulation of elements: the unpredictable plotting, the striking evocation of life in this idyllic (but flawed) community and – perhaps most satisfying – the intriguing interaction between Patrick and Erica, both loving and fractious. It’s Läckberg’s particular skill to have created two of the most fully rounded characters in contemporary crime fiction, with a warmth that cuts through the Nordic chill’ —
Barry Forshaw, The Independent