The Drowning by Camilla Läckberg

Books Reviews
The Drowning by Camilla Läckberg

At the start of Camilla Läckberg’s series of mystery novels, crime writer Erica Falck and detective Patrik Hedström were swept up in both a developing case and a burgeoning romance.

LackbergDrowningProper.jpgNow, with Läckberg returning to Erica and Patrik for the sixth time in The Drowning, the couple has more demands than ever. They’re married with a toddler, and they’re expecting twins. Though it’s anything but a humdrum domesticity, the careful detail given to Erica and Patrik’s home life commands the core of the novel.

The cast of characters also emphasizes Läckberg’s theme of family: from Erica and her sister, who are both pregnant, to the inept police chief-turned-doting grandfather, to those with young children, older children, step-children and even children with an eerie resemblance to a murdered parent.

The ominous presence of a secret in the past sends consequences rippling outward, tearing through four families: Magnus, the first victim, whose wife and two children are only left to wonder and grieve; Christian, a first-time author who started receiving threatening letters as he began his manuscript; and Erik and Kenneth, two business partners who’ve shared long-term friendships with the others.

Of the characters holding secrets, the most troubled and most fervently guarding his past is Christian, whose novel The Mermaid has been edited by Erica. The question of guilt that rests at the heart of The Mermaid hovers around Läckberg’s story as well. But in The Drowning, it’s the diffused sort of guilt that naturally accompanies parenthood, the nagging worry that small mistakes could manifest future tragedy in a child’s life.

Läckberg’s quiet setting of Fjällbacka, on the western coast of Sweden, suggests that there’s a natural order beyond the turmoil of Erica and Patrik’s current case. As malevolent letters arrive at Christian’s home, his friends Erik and Kenneth also receive threatening messages. Using her research skills, Erica discovers bits and pieces that fill in the gaps of Patrik’s police investigation. Though they’re slow to share information, their overlapping knowledge separately drives them to the same conclusion.

A parallel story is told in short passages at the end of chapters. Italicized text reveals shadowy glimpses of a long-ago past, eventually connecting with the present timeline. Interspersing a story with limited, mysterious flashbacks is a signature characteristic of Läckberg’s novels. Here, she handles the slow-drip of information as effectively as ever.

Contemporary Scandinavian crime fiction is a crowded and talented field, and Läckberg has earned her place among the top tier. She writes with a subtle, buzzing suspense that sets her apart, and the realistic depiction of family life brings even the wildest cases to a relatable level.

The Drowning possesses the depth of Läckberg’s previous novels, like The Ice Princess and The Stonecutter, but it unfortunately suffers from a less-than-believable conclusion. The reveal rings hollow, missing the creative edge that Läckberg has previously commanded.

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