Book review

30 Day Book Challenge – Best book you’ve read in the last 12 months.

DAY 23. – Anne Holt – “Finse 1222” and Camilla Lackberg – “The Drowning”

Holt, a former Norwegian Minister of Justice and Journalist, is a brilliant writer. Her book set in a Norwegian hotel, where survivors of a train wreck at a remote altitude (1222 metres), face the prospect of being ‘snowed in’ with a murderer for several days.

The unlikely heroine is Hanne Wilhelmsen and whilst I have read Anne Holt before, I had not read the Hanne Wilhelmsen series. This gay ex – cop in a wheelchair, is not your archetypal heroine and for that, this book is worth the title for today’s book challenge.

However, I feel sure that my saying this is the presence of so much snow and ice in the story, and my close ties with the Norwegian countryside. I have passed through this very railway station and on this train line at least twice and thus, it was easy for me to visualise the countryside, and the isolation the characters felt being hemmed in with a potential murderer, each suspecting one another: a la Agatha Christie.  The description of the snow and ice and blizzard: visceral and the suspense palpable.

But perhaps, my bias of personal experiences has influenced my choice for this topic, and thus I include a more sedentary, easy read, of the Erica Falck series from the Queen of Swedish Soap-opera Crime: Camilla Lackberg. Whilst part of a series, it can be read as a stand- along story.* (See tip below)

The Drowning


A new author is lauded by the residents of not only Fjallbacka, but also Sweden. “Why did he write the book?” the journalist asks. Christian says it was a story he had to write.  Was it something hidden in the past that has compelled him to write a story? Can it be truth or fiction, and why does he look like a haunted man, when his dreams has finally come true? When one of the author’s closest friends goes missing, Detective Patrik Hedstrom has his worst suspicions confirmed as the mind games aimed at Christian become a disturbing reality.  But with the victims themselves concealing evidence, and telling Patrick nothing that will help him identify the culprit will they die before the secret is revealed?  Is there silence driven by fear or guilt?

The characters in this story are almost like old friends themselves, as they seem so familiar and believable. They are all people we have met in our individual lives, with the exception of Christian. His tragic childhood and adolescence is told over the course of the book, and ultimately the secrets are revealed in the most unexpected way. However, it may be easy for experienced Lackberg fans to pick up on the clues the author leaves in the early to mid chapters of the book. Nevertheless, it is slightly better than the most recent tales in the Erica Falck series.

Erica’s character is sometimes a little too perfect in Lackberg’s novels and at times a little soap opera -ish, but in ‘The Drowning,’ Erica is more in the background, and Patrick’s voice more dominant, than in earlier novels in this series. Despite the melodrama of Erica and her sister being simultaneously pregnant, I enjoyed this novel and reacquainted myself with the Bohuslan coastal communities described in the story.

More importantly, the novel also touches on aspects of bullying, prejudice jealousy, and the all too common ostracism of anyone who is perceived by society to be “different.” Those at the fringe of society and their sufferings can be and often are, invisible, even to the benevolent agencies that are purported to help them. As the cover suggests, there are grave consequences to selfishness and jealousy, disguised as sibling rivalry, and the story highlights how we as adults, often dismiss the vulnerability of a child’s ego and mental state when exposed to stress.

This is the fifth book in the Erica Falck series, previous titles include: The Ice Princess, The Preacher, The Stone Cutter, The Gallow’s Bird, The Hidden Child, The Drowning, and The Lost Boy. Filming of the new TV series Fjällbacka Murders began in August 2011 based on the characters from Läckberg’s novels, but the stories will be new. For more about Camilla Lackberg, click here:

* Tip:
Try to read the series in order, as I have read all in order, missing only the last installment, titled “The Hidden Child.” Because, as Murphy’s law dictates, the novel you next read will contain a spoiler for the one you missed. It may only be one sentence but that will relate to a a central theme! So you have been warned. Ponder about that before you dig in and read them out of order.

The Good: Suspenseful story-building to the final climactic end.

The Bad: Slightly predictable plot. Soap opera type details of the main character’s personal lives. But they are like old shoes, they fit easily and are comfortable to wear!

The Ugly: Tragic consequences of child abuse, bullying and jealousy highlighted  in this book.

Something to Ponder About

DAY 24. – Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like/liked.
DAY 25. – The most surprising plot twist or ending.
DAY 26. – Book that makes you laugh out loud.
DAY 27. – Book that has been on your “to read” list the longest.
DAY 28. – Favorite quote from a book.
DAY 29. – A book you hated.
DAY 30. – Book you couldn’t put down.

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