Tag Archives: Camilla Läckberg

Leave my archipelagos alone!

In his review last week of Camilla Läckberg’s The Lost Boy, the Resident IT Consultant mentioned the standard clichés you tend to encounter in Nordic crime fiction. OK, neither abuse nor suicides are terribly enjoyable, albeit facts of life and probably quite appropriate in crime novels that tend to deal with death and violence.

But I claim the right to have my motorcycle gangs, and my archipelagos! They are a way of life. They are also common enough not to merit cliché-dom, simply because you expect them.

Waffles

Motorcycle gangs are rarely young killers in real life, though. They are middleaged and orderly, living their dream. What’s not to like about wearing black leather and driving around the beautiful Nordic countryside? Stopping for coffee and waffles at some scenic outdoor café, and life is just perfect.

But the crime novelist might be better off not mentioning the waffles.

As for the archipelago; we ‘all’ have one. Strictly speaking, it needn’t be an archipelago. A beach will do. Somewhere by the sea. Or the side of a lake. If the water is missing, there will be forests. And in that forest or by that stretch of water – on or off an island – is a cottage.

Your cottage. You either own it or rent it or borrow it or simply visit someone else’s. Preferably with an invitation. Although the urban myth (?) depicts how you just decide to go visit the Nilssons for the day (or the weekend) because they own that nice cottage, and so by default will be desperate for your obnoxious company. You arrive armed with a packet of biscuits, ensuring they will be so dreadfully appreciative…

You don’t have to be rich. Not on the breadline either, obviously, but you can be – and most likely are – completely ordinary.

Varberg

I have had an ‘archipelago’ all my life, in the shape of a beach on the Swedish coast. The landscape looks like Kenneth Branagh’s Ystad. My first trip I was one week old, and we spent the next eleven summers in the same cottage. It belonged to Favourite Aunt, and the cottage next to hers was Aunt Motta’s, and all the cousins crowded in and slept packed like sardines.

Beach and sardines. Privy. It couldn’t have been more wonderful if it tried.

And it goes without saying that had we been the murderous type, we’d have done the dirty deed in this idyllic and sunny setting. That’s why you set your crime novel in an archipelago. Not because everyone else does.

By my twelfth summer Mother-of-witch wanted her own cottage, so saved and scraped and bought one. (Come to think of it; that’s where the postman thought we’d done the Retired Children’s Librarian in.)

Crab fishing in Steninge

We still holiday there and whenever we go for waffles, the motorcycle gang is sure to follow.

The Lost Boy

I was just about to reply to the email about Camilla Läckberg’s latest novel, The Lost Boy, saying that I don’t really read Swedish crime in translation, when the Resident IT Consultant said very pointedly that he would like to read her. So I reversed my plans and let him have the book. I have heard a lot about Camilla’s writing, but if truth be told, I read hardly any Swedish books these days.

Over to my guest reviewer:

“I hadn’t read any of Camilla Läckberg’s crime novels before, so I was interested to get the opportunity to read her latest book in her Patrik Hedström series set in Bohuslän, north of Gothenburg.

Mats Sverin, financial director on a regeneration project worth millions, is found murdered. As Tanum police investigate, the plot thickens and Mats’ universal popularity seems to hide a mysterious past which draws in all the characters.

I found it a little hard to get started. There’s a large cast of characters and I did not find it easy to remember who was who. Probably if I’d read the other novels in the series this wouldn’t matter. But the novel is twice the length of Sjöwall and Wahlöö’s first crime novel and I did wonder whether it could have been a little shorter.

Camilla Läckberg, The Lost Boy

I liked the picture it painted of the Swedish West Coast. The book is called The Lighthouse Keeper in Swedish and I found it reminded me of Wilfrid Wilson Gibson’s poem Flannan Isle. Otherwise the novel contains many of the features we’ve learnt to become familiar with in Swedish crime: drugs, domestic abuse, a motorcycle gang, a suicide and an archipelago. These are almost becoming a stereotype for Nordic crime.

As the plot developed I got more drawn in and I read the final two thirds of the book much faster than I had read the first third. Everything came to a satisfactory conclusion in the end.

Would I read another? Probably yes, and I assume more knowledge of the key characters would make a second novel an easier read.”

Yes, I always find it hard starting in the middle of a series. If the author explains what has gone before, I get bored. If they don’t, I get annoyed. No pleasing some…

Is the emperor really wearing clothes?

I believe I’ve found a Swedish Martin Amis. He seems to be called Bengt Ohlsson. He’s such a great author that he’s allowed to write ‘not so nice’ things about others in the name of culture and entertainment in a newspaper column. Unlike dear Mr Amis, Bengt didn’t suggest that children’s books are simple to write. He said (and here I get very nervous, because I saw what others didn’t see, and how can I be sure that what I saw is right, when it seems that most people whose opinions I normally value saw the exact opposite?) that nobody much likes the crime novels by Camilla Läckberg. He put her name in the same sentence as Auschwitz. I believe he meant (apparently) that her books are bad, but it’s fine to enjoy bad books. He does so himself, except obviously not the bad books by Camilla.

She got upset, which is so unreasonable because she makes a fortune on those books of hers, and she wrote a reply. That was proof that she’s unable to read (because he really didn’t say what she thought he said), and anyway when you are being bullied in the school playground it’s not the done thing to cry. Stiff upper lips are so much better.

I came across this spat on Annika Bryn’s blog, and immediately clicked on her link to see what witty column Bengt had written, seeing as Annika appreciated it. I read it over and over and at no time did it look like anything but an unpleasant comment. I swallowed my not inconsiderable pride and admitted that like Camilla herself, I had not grasped the ‘real’ meaning of the column either.

Now you see, I have heard of Camilla Läckberg, but have never felt the urge to read her books. But that’s not picking on her. I didn’t know Bengt Ohlsson, however, and admitted it. That was considered strange. He’s a great writer of literary works and he’s won prizes for them. I just feel that in that case his column, even if the topic was above my head and carried connotations unknown to me, should have been an example of good and interesting writing. And I don’t feel it was.

And he was rude. Had he managed the rudeness with flair and wit and intelligence I might have overlooked it. But he didn’t. And why not, if he’s the prize winning type?