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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



The Ice Princess

by
Camilla Läckberg


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Ice Princess



Title: The Ice Princess
Author: Camilla Läckberg
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 393 pages
Original in: Swedish
Availability: The Ice Princess - US
The Ice Princess - UK
The Ice Princess - Canada
La Princesse des glaces - France
Die Eisprinzessin schläft - Deutschland
  • Swedish title: Isprinsessan
  • Translated by Steven T. Murray

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Our Assessment:

B : agreeable enough, though hardly driven by the mystery itself

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Svenska Dagbladet . 28/7/2003 Magnus Persson
The Times . 25/4/2008 Marcel Berlins


  From the Reviews:
  • "Det vimlar naturligtvis av lik i garderoben och intrigen tar halvvägs in i boken ett rejält tag om läsaren. Men spänningen motverkas av de många gånger schabloniserade personporträtten (den självbelåtna och fullständigt inkompetenta polischefen är främsta exemplet) och de alltför många korrekturmissarna som förlaget av någon anledning släppt igenom. Här finns också en tendens till samhällskritik av typen "Mankell light", men den stannar på det ytliga och ofrivilligt reaktionära planet" - Magnus Persson, Svenska Dagbladet

  • "Camilla Läckberg sets her novels in Fjällbacka, a small fishing and resort town in western Sweden with all the requisite hidden, dark and claustrophobic relationships." - Marcel Berlins, The Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Ice Princess is the first of Camilla Läckberg's novels set in the small Swedish town of Fjällbacka. A body is discovered early on -- the ice princess of the title, Alexandra (Alex) Wijkner, née Calgren, with slit wrists, an apparent suicide in the bathtub -- but the police investigation doesn't come to the fore very quickly. Police matters locally are handled in Tanumshede, and the Superintendant, Bertil Mellberg, is almost a caricature of the inept but completely sure of himself policeman; he was posted here -- where it was thought he could do no harm -- after burning a few too many bridges in Göteborg, though he's still certain he'll be summoned back once they realize what they're missing. At least he has a competent assistant, Patrik Hedström.
       A childhood friend of Alex's, Erica Falck, is one of the first to find see the body. Erica, a writer specializing in the biographies of famous Scandinavian women writers, is back in the town where she grew up because her parents recently died. Erica also knows Patrik from when they were children -- and Patrik long harbored the hugest of crushes on her.
       Alex and Erica had been the closest of friends as young girls, but then had gone their separate way, Alex growing distant and then moving away with her family -- a loss that still hurts Erica, because she never understood why Alex drifted away like that.
       It turns out that Alex was not a suicide; she was also several months pregnant. As the story progresses, Erica and Patrik each stumble upon both long-hidden local secrets, and a few relatively new ones, too, as a lot of people are covering up a lot of things from their pasts and presents; meanwhile, Erica and Patrik also begin a romantic relationship -- which the case gets in the way of occasionally.
       Erica comes to see that she didn't know her old friend Alex very well at all, but it takes a while to figure out what Alex had come back to Fjällbacka to deal with. Despite being married she had also struck up what everyone who heard about it thought was an extremely unlikely romantic relationship with a local drunk -- a gifted artist, but otherwise lost cause -- who makes a good suspect for the killing. But then there's another death -- another (im)possible suicide -- and the case looks more complicated again.
       The Ice Princess isn't that focused on crime and solving. There is a puzzle here, and the police do work to put all the pieces in place (well, Patrik does; the ridiculous Superintendant Mellberg seems to manage a misstep with every step), but Läckberg is more concerned with atmosphere, relationships, and family secrets. Erica frets about her book and worries about her sister, who married an overbearing (and, it turns out, worse, too) husband who wants the sisters' parent's home to be sold. Erica has a close friend, Dan, whose marriage also faces some pressures. Then there's the richest family in town: the son and heir to the fortune disappeared some fifteen years earlier, while the foster-son they adopted clearly is also still carrying around some baggage. And then there's Alex's much younger sister, an ugly duckling compared to the beautiful ice princess.
       It strikes Erica and Patrik that a lot of things don't add up when examined closely -- or add up too neatly. The final explanation is plausible enough, for crime fiction, though this (and few other parts of the crime-plotline) read very much like a paint-by-the-numbers mystery, and there are moments when Läckberg is clearly trying too hard, straining for effect or meaningfulness. The appeal of the novel is largely found elsewhere: Läckberg's forte is in describing the dynamics and interaction among the many characters, scenes from small town life with all the secrets, social class conflict, and romantic entanglements that can be found there (and everywhere).
       The Ice Princess moves along at its own pace, rarely hurried but also not boring -- though certainly slower than the usual mystery/thriller. It's an agreeable read, with a few small, inspired ideas and moments: nothing exceptional, in any way, but a fine pass-time read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 7 June 2010

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Links:

The Ice Princess: Reviews: Camilla Läckberg: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Swedish author Camilla Läckberg was born in 1974.

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© 2010 the complete review

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