Camilla Läckberg, The Hidden Child (2007, Eng. 2011)

I could not resist the hype and had to see what this new star of Nordic crime was about. After all, I read and loved Henning Mankell, Sjöwall-Wahlöö and I’ve also tried Jo Nesbo. I’ve resisted Stieg Larsson (that’s my typical hype backlash) and the one Arnaldur Indridason I’ve perused didn’t quite sound appealing at the time. So I was more than ready for Camilla Läckberg.

Unfortunately I didn’t quite fall in love with it. I liked it and finished it alright, and the plot was good if not completely earth-shattering (while the title certainly did give away too much of the secrets). In the small town of Fjallbacka where every Läckberg mystery takes place, secrets are unearthed related to local WW2 events. Sweden was indeed officially neutral during the war, but it didn’t stop people from taking side, either to support the Resistance in neighboring Norway (that was under Nazi occupation) or to support the racist theories of the Nazis.

The narration alternates between the war and the investigation of an ageing historian’s grisly murder. Erica Falk and Patrick Hedstrom both investigates the murder on the sidelines, Erica for personal reasons because the historian used to be a friend of her mother’s, and Patrick because he’s on parental leave but can’t resist helping out his colleagues.

Every ingredient is palatable, but the result isn’t really memorable. I found the writing too straightforward, quite blunt. Maybe we’re just supposed to have read previous mysteries by Läckberg before starting this one and be familiar with the small team of detectives and their rather complicated family lives. I was not, and I didn’t really care that much.

Maybe I’m being too much of a snob, but the instant assumed familiarity with the reader… well… it’s not French at all, right? We have such a sneering expression that goes like: “we haven’t raised pigs together”, which means that the person is getting too close for comfort, too casual, too informal. I assume that it’s a cultural Scandinavian trait, but on the contrary, I could argue that Wallander mysteries are aloof and terse and that people do keep their distance.

I didn’t really enjoy Erica & Co, and as they are recurring characters, that doesn’t really push me towards other books by Läckberg. But if you get past this point, the book is quite entertaining!


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