The Ice Child by Camilla Lackberg
Review by Kylie Thompson
Rating: 3 and a half stars
Four months after her disappearance, Victoria Hallberg is found, wandering semi-naked through the snow covered woods, and out onto the road. Before her would-be rescuer can intervene, Victoria is hit by a car.
Her injuries are far worse than can be explained away by a car crash. It’s clear that wherever Victoria has been, her captor, or captors, were sadistic. While the local police struggle to find clues in the snow, families struggle to make sense of the tragedy. Throughout the country, five girls have vanished in all, and speculation is rife that the other four girls have shared Victoria’s horrific fate. It’s a desperate search to uncover the culprit, and hopefully return four girls to their devastated families.
While Detective Patrik Hedström tries to make sense of the senseless, his wife is working on a case of her own. Crime writer Erica Falck is investigating the notorious ‘House of Horrors’ case; the story of a couple who brutalised their daughter until one day, the mother seemingly snapped and killed her husband. It’s always seemed a simple open and shut case, but as Erica begins to break through the murderess’s silence, she realises that things may not be as straightforward as they seem. When connections start to appear between Patrik’s modern-day case, and Erica’s decades old tragedy, everyone in the close-knit community becomes a suspect.
The Ice Child is Camilla Lackberg’s ninth novel, and it’s clear that she has a knack for taking idyllic scenes of family and community closeness and letting her villains loose in the most unsettling of ways. There’s a reason Lackberg has a reputation as one of the best of the current crop of Nordic crime writers: she’s damn good at blurring the boundaries between mundane and menace, until everyone is under suspicion and nobody is safe.
We tend to focus attention on authors from Australia, America, or Britain, and if you’ve never had the chance to read work from beyond those countries, it’s good to remember that different regions hold slightly different storytelling methods. The Ice Child, for example, has more perspectives on offer than most Australian authors tend to utilise, and there’s less of a focus on clearly differentiating whose perspective we’ve shifted into.
If you need your POV shifts clearly defined, preferably with a sign-posting title of some sort, this might be annoying. But if you’re happy to try and keep up with the story unfolding, and figuring out the who’s who as you go, The Ice Child is a fantastic read. It can take a while to get into the rhythm of the work if you’re used to clearly identified POV shifts, and yet, it’s not so jarring that it spoils the story. And perhaps I needed to think a little bit more to keep up with who was speaking, and where they fit in the overall story, but that tangled community of characters simply served to make it more of a challenge to solve the mystery.
Certainly not a bad thing in crime writing.
The Ice Child is published by Harper Collins, and is available through the publisher’s website, and at the usual retailers both online and off.