Saturday, October 9, 2010
The Preacher. Camilla Lackberg.Steven T. Murray(Translator). HarperCollins (2004)
A simple and superbly orchestrated plot and a large, active and engaging cast make for a gripping and hugely enjoyable thriller. In the small Swedish town of Fjallbacka, the discovery of the body of a young woman and the two skeletons marks the start of a very difficult case for Detective Patrik Hedstrom. While the case draws in a local and bitterly divided family, the Hults, the lack of clues makes progress agonisingly slow. When a second young woman disappears the the pressure on everyone involved grows to dangerous levels. The reveals are cunningly staged and the cast are given plenty of time and space to establish themselves. The conclusion is fiercely sad and fitting.
The shifting viewpoints among the large cast that allow the reader to see each cast member from their own point of view and from that of others creates a rich and varied context for the mystery at the heart of the story. The cast have independent lives beyond the mechanics of the mystery and as they reveal themselves the grip of the story intensifies. The actions of the cast as they respond to the crimes and to other pressures in their lives gives the crimes a depth and proportion. The increasing levels of collateral damage created by the old and new crimes is steadily revealed as the cast are forced to confront their own actions.
One of the very enjoyable aspects to the book is that the strongest feature of the police investigation is simple, unrelenting persistence. The obstacles the investigation encounter are incompetence and indifference much more than any clever criminality. The messy lives of the cast are sympathetically dealt with, with flashes of sharp humour that are a pleasure to read. A big generous story that is subtly disciplined and controlled, a great read.