19 February 2012

Book Review: The Drowning by Camilla Lackberg

Title: The Drowning
Author: Camilla Lackberg
(Translated from the Swedish by Tina Nunnally)
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: Uncorrected Proof Copy
489 pages
Genre: Fiction, psychological thriller
Source: Publisher

The Drowning by Camilla Lackberg is a compelling psychological thriller set in FjÀllbacka, a small village located on the west coast of Sweden. The police are baffled when Magnus Kjellner, a respectable man with a wife and two teenage children, is reported missing. Three months later, when his body is found, the missing person case turns into a murder investigation.

It soon becomes apparent to Patrik Hedstrom, the detective in charge of investigating the murder, that friends of Magnus might be in danger.

Christian Thydell has been receiving anonymous notes with cryptic messages that clearly are meant to be threatening. Patrik immediately suspects there must be a connection to the murder, especially since Christian and Magnus were friends. He is also certain that Christian knows more than he is admitting to about the notes. Patrik wonders if the threatening notes might be connected to the publication of Christian's debut novel, The Mermaid. As Patrik and his colleagues do further investigating, Patrik's wife, Erica Falck, a published author and mentor to Christian, can't resist doing her own investigating.

Why is Christian reluctant to talk about the notes? Who is sending the notes, and why is Christian the target? Are Christian's friends, Erik and Kenneth, in danger too? As Patrik and Erica search for answers, they discover some deeply held secrets which might lead to solving the murder as well.

The Drowning is an extremely well-crafted story, with an intriguing mystery and characters that are easy to visualize as they go about their daily routines.The lives of these well-rounded characters all overlap - just as the lives of people in any small community would - and it soon becomes apparent that even the smallest detail about the characters and their relationships, is essential to this compelling story.

The dialogue between all the characters is superb, particularly the dialogue between husbands and wives. Indeed, every word of dialogue rings true, as the reader gets to know each of the characters and their convoluted relationships. The ordinary domestic scenes are vividly portrayed through their words and actions. In addition, one character is troubled by an internal dialogue that adds a layer to the mystery as these disturbing thoughts, possibly memories, are interspersed in the narrative.

A strong sense of foreboding builds as the tangled clues are gradually revealed in the intricate plot. As the characters begin to unravel the mystery, so too the reader begins to guess who the murderer might be - and then there are twists and turns in the story with a shocking ending that reveals more surprises.

The central theme in The Drowning concerns secrets. Do we ever truly know everything about anyone? Other themes explored in the novel are rejection, friendship, guilt, betrayal, and revenge. These strong psycological themes all add up to a disturbing and heartbreaking thriller.

Camilla Lackberg has written five previous novels (all bestsellers in Sweden) and they all feature the same character, Patrik Hedstrom. It's also worth noting that Camilla Lackberg is from Fjallbacka and, as noted on the author's website, all her books are set in Fjallbacka. I'm very grateful to HarperCollins for sending me a proof copy which I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

I highly recommend The Drowning, particularly if you enjoy reading crime thrillers with strong psychological themes, intricate plots, and compelling characters. Indeed, I'm now eager to read all of the previous books in the series by Camilla Lackberg.

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