Daniel Williams

Posts Tagged ‘Camilla Lackberg’

‘The Stone Cutter’ (2005) Camilla Läckberg

In Book Review, Review, Swedish, Writing on 04/02/2012 at 18:19

I really wanted to like this book. I like murder-mysteries and I’d never read one of the Scandinavian crime novels that are very popular at the moment. I’d seen the Wallander shows on TV and liked them, so I thought I’d give one of Camilla Läckberg’s novels a read. I really wanted to like it. I wanted it to be an entertaining thriller. Halfway though the book I was trying to focus on what I liked about it, but by the end I gave up all pretence of enjoying it.

The Stone Cutter (2005) is set in the small town of Fjällbacka. A body of a little girl is pulled out of the water and its soon discovered that her death was not an accident. The crime is investigated by the town’s small police force of five people. Patrik Hedström, the good-egg cop, heads the investigation. But meanwhile, his girlfriend, Erica, is struggling at home with their newborn baby. The book also flashes back to the 1920s with a subplot about a spoilt rich girl and her lust for a stone cutter- though why his character or his profession the deserves the title of the book I have no idea… maybe something was lost in translation because by the end of it the relation of the character of the stone cutter to the plot was, well, minimal at best.

The book is long by a crime novel standards, clocking in at about 550 pages in paperback, and the plot is so very, very slow. The trouble is all the sub-plots. Several times something starts out as looking as though it’s going to be related to the mystery of the death of the little girl, but is then revealed to be a red herring, and then becomes a sub-plot for a minor character for the rest of the book. Camilla Läckberg really goes into too much depth with minor characters. I know she’s trying to flesh them out to make it interesting, but it really bogs down the plot so much. If I had to offer her editing advice it would be not to be afraid of the red pen. She really needs to use her red pen more. I would read scenes and even whole chapters and think- this adds nothing to the plot. They don’t even develop character, they just emphasis something about the character we’ve already been told.

Speaking of characters, the majority of them are one-dimensional. I felt no empathy or sympathy to any of the characters at any point. Patrik and Erica struggle with the newborn, but you know it’s all going to work out by the end. Okay, I admit that I read this book without realising it was part of series, but it would seem to me that they won’t really develop. In this book they have a newborn at home. I imagine the previous novel would have been about them dealing with her been pregnant, and the fourth book will be (spoiler alert) about them getting married. That doesn’t seem to be real development because you know it’ll all work out for them at the end.

But to return my point about characters, a lot of minor character’s backgrounds and history got told, but by the end she still managed to leave some character threads unresolved and even made serious lapses in characters behaviour that had been previously set up. One more thing about characters- she introduces two sets of characters in exactly the same way. Two married couple are introduced by having the husband complain about something and the woman to agree in dialogue but then we see their thoughts in which they don’t agree. Then two young men with mental problems are introduced by them both sitting in their rooms looking in-depth at something… and both these introduction are presented without context to be revealed later. I like repetition, but this just seems like a complete lapse in judgement.

I’m sure the novel is well researched because the same pieces of information get repeated over and over again by different characters in exactly the same way. One of the characters has Asperger’s syndrome. I know not everybody knows about Asperger’s, but pretty much every character goes ‘Well, what’s that then?’ and another character will repeat the same facts about Asperger’s. By the third or fourth time it happened it really grated on me.

Maybe something is lost in translation because I can’t see the appeal of the book. I don’t think ‘by the numbers’ is a bad thing if it’s done well. But this isn’t done well. It just falls flat and plods on without any real focus. Some of the ‘clues’ and revelations relied far too much on coincidence and on ignoring character’s previously set-up character. At the end the murder is pretty much solved by the fact the policeman happens to watch the right TV show about poisoning (I kid you not). I really did want to like this book. I wanted an entertaining murder mystery, but the murderer turns out to be pretty the person you always thought it was.

If you hadn’t guessed, I was pretty damn unimpressed.

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