The Drowning is the sixth in the Swedish crime series featuring police detective Patrik Hedström and his wife Erica Falck, a “true crime” author.
The small town of Fjällbacka now has another famous author besides Erica. Christian Thydell, a librarian in Fjällbacka, has published his novel The Mermaid to much critical acclaim. Erica feels especially proud because she helped him edit the book. But what should be a happy time for Christian is ruined by his receipt of threatening letters, always on the same type of paper and written by the same hand.
Erica thinks the police should be involved, and pockets one of the letters to show to Patrick. Patrik however is too busy to devote much attention to them; he is absorbed by trying to find Magnus Kjellner, who has been missing for three months and is believed to be dead. When Kjellner’s body is found, the investigation heats up. When it does so, it seems to be the first time the police notice that Kjellner basically only had three close friends, one of whom was Christian, and none of whom was apparently even interviewed about the disappearance. The other two, Erik and Kenneth, are also getting the letters, although neither has told anyone else. But clearly, something is rotten in the state of Sweden.
The recounting of each of their stories alternate with flashbacks from the life of a young boy who underwent terrible abuse, and then became a bit psychotic himself. It is obvious what happened to him is somehow connected to what is happening in the present.
Discussion: Läckberg is a good writer, and while I cannot read the original in Swedish, the translation work by Tiina Nunnally seems very competent; the prose flows smoothly and one doesn’t notice any awkwardness in the dialogue.
The story is a bit repetitive with respect to the situation of all of the wives; the jokes about Erica’s size (she is pregnant with twins) grow old after a bit, and the cringing submissiveness and abuse of the other wives is too belabored. Similarly, the shocking incompetency of Patrick’s boss is overworked. In previous books by this author, she also interposed “lifestyle” sequences to break up the tension, but I think in this case, too much rehearsing of the same issues became monotonous and frustrating.
Evaluation: In spite of a few quibbles, I like this police procedural series a great deal. The writing is competent and the main characters are likable. While the mystery in this particular book gets solved, the storyline germane to the series itself has a cliffhanger ending, and I look forward to finding out how matters progress.
Published in the U.K. by HarperCollins, 2012 and in the U.S. by Pegasus Books, 2015