The Drowning, by Camilla Läckberg
The Drowning (original title Sjöjungfrun) is the sixth in Swedish crime fiction writer Camilla Läckberg’s bestselling series featuring the mystery-solving duo Erica Falck-Patrik Hedström. The series has been a stunning success in Europe, and has made Camilla Läckberg one of the top ten best-selling authors there.
The series is set in the small town of Fjällbacka, and while the series follows the lives of the primary characters and the community, each book in the series focuses on a mystery. The books are all well-written and quite suspenseful. The events in this latest thriller in the series, The Drowning, take place a few months after the events in The Hidden Child.
As we know, Fjällbacka has for a long time had a famous author living there: Erica Falck. Now, a second, very promising writer emerges in this small community: Christian Thydell, a librarian in Fjällbacka, has published his novel The Mermaid (readers familiar with the series will remember that he was working on this book in The Hidden Child). The book has been very well-received and a great success. Even so, things are very tough for Christian: he has received very threatening letters that are devastating and extremely frightening.
Erica – who writes crime fiction and loves mysteries – discovers the letters and steals one of them to show to her police detective husband Patrick. Inadvertently, the existence of the letters leaks to the press, which of course increases the pressure on the already hard-pressed and fragile Christian.
At his end, at the police station, Patrik is working with a missing person case: Magnus Kjellner has disappeared without a trace and has been missing for three months. There is every reason to believe he is dead, but so far no body has turned up. When his body is found, the investigation turns into a hunt for his murderer.
After the letters turn up, it becomes clear that Christian and Magnus knew one another. That they were part of a group of childhood friends with strong ties to one another. It is quite possible that there is a connection between the letters that Christian is receiving and the disappearance. So what about the other two childhood friends in the gang of four, Erik and Kenneth? Are they too in danger? Increasingly, while the police meet with a veritable wall of silence, Erica and Patrik starts to feel the clock is ticking. And it is ..
The Drowning is a very evocative novel with an intelligent and strong plot. The writing is quite powerful, with a focus that shifts from character to character - a technique Camilla Läckberg masterfully utilizes to build tension. The translation by Tiina Nunnally is excellent. The multiple, quite interesting and at times intriguing side stories about Erica and Patrik, their families, work, and social life that are part of both this and the other books in the series, are well integrated into the story, and serve to make the series as a whole quite fascinating. Also, Camilla Läckberg shows in The Drowning that she is quite capable of a serious and compelling exploration of themes such as betrayal and guilt. The story is well structured, is full of understated menace, has credible characters, is suspenseful and reads well.
In my opinion Camilla Läckberg is still growing as a writer, and The Drowing is her best so far. I thoroughly recommend it.
Praise for Camilla Lackberg:
‘Mesmerising … It’s Lackberg’s particular skill to have created two of the most fully rounded characters in contemporary crime fiction, with a warmth that cuts right through the Nordic chill’ Independent
‘Lackberg is an expert at mixing scenes of domestic cosiness with blood-curdling horror… a must for white-knuckle junkies’ Guardian
‘Läckberg 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