The Stranger by Camilla Läckberg

strangerThe Stranger by Camilla Läckberg, translated by Steven T. Murray
Also published as The Gallows Bird, 2011; originally published as Olycksfågeln, 2006
This edition: Open Road Integrated Media/ Pegasus Books, 2013

Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

The Stranger is the fourth Patrik Hedstrom-Erica Falck novel by Läckberg, and it’s the first one I’ve read in this series. Set in a small town in southern Sweden, the novel follows Patrik’s investigation of a single car accident that he suspects was homicide as well as the investigation of the murder of a reality show contestant living in town for five weeks. His fiancee Erica is a true crime writer, but she doesn’t do any writing in this book: she’s in the midst of caring for her sister Anna and planning her wedding.

I’m new to Läckberg, and I didn’t know what to expect. This book is heavy on personal drama in all of the personal lives of its characters, including Patrik’s boss Melberg, and it’s lighter on the mystery. I read it very quickly despite the fact that I didn’t feel a lot of tension mounting in the plot.

There are a couple writing tics that bothered me about this book: Patrik is a perfect police officer (he has a fabulous memory, he gets along with everyone), and Läckberg withholds information from the reader after Patrik gathers it in a phone call, for example. I think she does the latter because there are so many characters to juggle in the story, and the mystery takes a back seat to the investigation to a certain degree. Despite my quibbles with the book, I’m willing to try The Ice Princess to see how it compares to this one.

Other reviews appear in Crime Scraps and Fleur Fisher in her world.

18 thoughts on “The Stranger by Camilla Läckberg

  1. Rebecca – For me, anyway, this series has changed over time. The Ice Princess is a little ‘edgier’ (although not brutal or gory) and it has a different focus. I’ll be very, very interested to see what you think of it. Thanks very much for the (as ever) fine review.

  2. I’ve heard good things about The Ice Princess (and it’s been sitting on my bookshelf for a few months), so I’m optimistic, Margot.

  3. The Ice Princess is the best book, Rebecca. You’re right about the concentration on the personal in Lackberg’s books.

      • Appreciate the review Rebecca. Didn’t mean to be a drag. Plenty of readers like her. Sometimes it can be down to finding the right book to start with. For me this author does more telling than showing and while I don’t mind personal relationships (hello Asa Larsson), the difference lie in whether they are interesting or not and it wasn’t for me. There are just too many other good books to spend my time on. Always interested in what you have to say about books so don’t mind me.

      • You’re not a drag at all, Keishon. I admit I picked up Lackberg just to see what the fuss was about without really reading any reviews beforehand. Certain things/ characters/ plots drive me up a wall that don’t seem to bother other people.

  4. I liked the first one… although maybe a bit too long. I have #2 and #3 in the series, so I assume I will get that far in the series. I have heard comments about the series spending more time with personal relationships than the mystery, and don’t know if I will like that or not. But it is different from a lot of Swedish mysteries. Thanks for this review.

  5. I’ve tried to read The Ice Princess, but it just seemed flat with nothing happening and simple sentence structure — and the words held no meaning for me. So, I, too, decided that this series isn’t for me.

  6. An author that I’d like to try. Sounds like I ought to start with The Ice Princess?

  7. I avoided your review when you posted because I had just started the book. I enjoyed it a lot more than you, I think – I liked the contrast of the personal stories. Horses for courses! But I agree about the withholding of information – that annoyed me too. Like you I haven’t read the other books, but I will – I want to know Patrik and Erica’s back story 🙂

    • I just saw your review too, FictionFan! I think the book felt odd to me because I was expecting more of a thriller and less of a personal story, but I think it mainly felt odd because the balance is so different than what I’ve been reading lately.

  8. I have read almost all the Erica Falck stories. Whilst initially loving the Ice Princess and the Stone cutter etc… the series is becoming a bit too light. Having said that, the characters and settings, grow on you like an old friend, and it is nothing like hard work to get through the novels in a couple of days. However, if you are looking for more depth, perhaps the series is not for you. It frustrates me sometimes that Patrick bungles the investigation!!!! Still, I will continue to read them, for the settings if nothing else.

    • I definitely don’t mind light books, but I have to be in the mood for them. I went into this book blind so I was a bit surprised by the heavy focus on the characters’ personal lives.

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