The Stonecutter, by Camilla Läckberg

by Peter

The Stonecutter is the third novel by Camilla Läckberg translated into English and released in England. It features policeman Patrik Hedstrom and his wife Erica Falck from Fjallbacka in Sweden. Patrick and Erica now have a newborn daughter,The Stonecutter, Camilla Läckberg Maja. Erica suffers from a post-birth depression, and Patrik has a hard time coping with all the new demands on him at home.

In The Stonecutter a little girl is found dead in a fisherman’s net. The post-mortem reveals that this is no accidental drowning! The girl has fresh rather than salt water in her lungs. Also there are traces of soap in her lungs and ash in her mouth. Someone has murdered the little girl indoors, dressed her and thrown her into the sea. So now Patrik has a murder case that requires his full attention. To some extent he is relieved to be able to return to work.

This murder case is a delicate one for Patrik, partly because the victim is a child, partly because she is the daughter of one of Erica’s friends, Camilla. Also, it is hard to see what the motive for this terrible crime could possibly be. Patrik and his colleagues follow every possible lead. And as they dig, more and more dark secrets from the little community of Fjallbacka surface. The police find evidence that indicates that the parents may have molested their other child. They find a neighbor that is involved in a child pornography ring. They reveal feuds between neighbors, and deep family conflicts. There is much not immediately visible behind the idyllic façade of small-town Sweden, and some of it is not pretty at all.

At we follow the investigation of the murder case, we also follow the destiny of Agnes, the daughter of a rich owner of a stone quarry, from the 1923 to the present. She gets involved with a stone cutter, gets pregnant, and finds her father rejecting her, withdrawing all her privileges and forcing her to marry the stone cutter – a man for whom she has no love – when he finds out.

In the present Patrick and his colleagues tear into the heart of Fjallbacka. As other children are attacked they frenetically chase down leads, but seemingly without making much progress. As well, mistakes and conflict within the police force result in the death of an innocent witness. When Patrick in the end connects the dots and finds the solution, it turns out to solve much more than he had anticipated. What he finds is a deep hatred and evil that has been build over long, long time.

Läckberg shows us some of the not so very social sides of social democratic Sweden, another parallel world where an evil mind lurks behind the scenes. Läckberg’s writing is getting better and better, and she is becoming more and more popular in Scandinavia. Her books have topped the bestseller lists in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Reading The Stonecutter it is easy to see why.

The Stonecutter is an interesting, exciting and action-packed crime fiction novel, even better than Camilla Läckberg’s earlier book The Ice Princess. It is great reading, and the ending is a winner! The novel has been excellently translated by Steven T. Murray – it is a true pleasure to read. Läckberg is very good at describing the effects of crime on a small community with close ties and relationships among people, and also does a great job at showing how the past may, in some circumstances, exert an active influence on the present. Great entertainment!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Maxine

Nice review. I have just read this book and although I enjoyed it, I didn’t think the flashbacks to the Stonecutter worked that well. I think she is stronger on the social and personal dynamics- I thought the friendship between Erica and her friend, and Erica’s post natal state, were very well done. The police were a bit stupid, I thought.
By the way, you say in your review that the previous novel is The Ice Princess whereas it is in fact The Preacher.

Peter

Thanks Maxine! A really bad sentence. I know The Preacher was the most recent.

Regarding the flashbacks: I thought they were interesting, in a sense showing how something old, not related to the present in any obvious fashion, could make investigation extremely difficult. The question is whether it could have been “integrated” with the main story in a better way. Without giving away spoilers, it is perhaps possible to say that without those two peculiar illnesses the police would seemingly have been clueless.

While there surely are things to discuss about The Stonecutter, I have to say that I consider it a “smart” novel and a very worthwhile read.

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