Title: The Preacher
Author: Camilla Lackberg
Review: How much does parenting matter, or rather, how much can you screw up a kid if you really tried? Almost every plot, both main and background, focus on a parent child relationship. At center we have three generations of fathers and sons creating an environment where horrific crimes against young girls could be permitted. But every side plot also involved some parent child relationship with a sliding scale of disfunctionality.
The plot successfully exposes the pitfalls that can have deadly consequences when we take an end justifies the means approach. For example, relatives make a surprise visit the lead detective and his very pregnant wife, taking advantage of their kind nature. They take a very hands off approach to parenting as not to squash their children’s inquisitive nature (and it is “okay” because she is a child psychologist). The consequence to this approach is the child inevitably turns out to be a major pain in the butt. We all know those parents and their kids - this is a universal truth.
Later on one of the lead characters is acting as a parent figure to a troubled young man and decides not to give specific instruction to him. He basically parented good values as long as they were convenient for his needs, but when he needed some trouble taken care of, not a word of what not to do. In this situation the young man reverts to his old ways, what he knows, and commits a terrible assault.
You have on one hand the Preacher, a long since deceased patriarch who through his lies and manipulation has led to the death and general ruination of multiple lives. And then you have our lead detective who is well on his way to becoming a first time father. Every generation has the opportunity to make a change to their family path. The problem usually is people often pick the wrong things to purge, and the worst things to incorporate.
The problems I did have with the book were technical in nature. The translation was a little bumpy and I never felt like that the story ever got into a good flow. Not helping that cause were the 40 page chapters and multiple side plots going on. For example we spend a little time with the detective’s wife’s sister. As I can figure she has escaped an abusive man only to hook up with another one. Then she receives a threatening phone call from the ex who then proceeds to destroy everything in her new apartment. The book ends with her moving in with him again (WHAT??). Then we conveniently get a rapist turning up as a red herring for 5 pages. Now you see him, now you don’t.
The biggest problem though was the complete lack of motivation of the whole mystery until the end. Typically a detective will work through all the angles of the crime and slowly figure out who they are trying to catch. Sometimes you get to spend time with the criminal which will add meaning to the plot, but here we only get to spend time with the victims in which we learn that the criminal hurts them, is nice to them, repeat until dead. Essentially at the end the perpetrator is arrested and then he explains the whys, because you have no clue until then. To me that feels like cheating.
Not the best example of Swedish crime fiction, but worth the read.
Thank you T. Stevens for this review.
Publisher: Free Press
Copyright: 2009 (trans 2011)
Quick Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Why I Read It: I am a major fan of the Nordic Noir.
Where I Obtained the Book: Sent to me by the publisher
Synopsis: In the fishing community of Fjauml;llbacka, life is remote, peacefulmdash;and for some, tragically short. Foul play was always suspected in the disappearance twenty years ago of two young holidaymakers in the area. Now a young boy out playing has confirmed this grim truth. Their remains, discovered with those of a fresh victim, send the town into shock. Local detective Patrik Hedstrom, expecting a baby with his girlfriend Erica, can only imagine what it is like to lose a child. When a second young girl goes missing, Hedstromrsquo;s attention focuses on the Hults, a feuding clan of misfits, religious fanatics and criminals. The suspect list is long but time is shortmdash;which of this familyrsquo;s dark secrets will provide the vital clue?
Author Biography: Born in 1974, Camilla Läckberg graduated from Gothenburg University of Economics, before moving to Stockholm where she worked for a few years as an economist. However, a course in creative crime writing became the trigger to a drastic change of career. Her first four novels all became Swedish bestsellers. Läckberg's books are always set in or around her birthplace, the small Swedish west coast town of Fjällbacka.
She lives in a suburb of Stockholm, with her husband Micke and her two children.