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Friday, November 22, 2013

The Stone Cutter. Camilla Lackberg, Steven T. Murray (Translator). HarperCollins (2010)

A gripping Swedish crime story that traces the impact of selfishness of every degree on a varied and engaging cast. In the small town of  Fjallbacka the body a young girl is pulled from sea by a fisherman,the postmortem reveals that it was murder not an accidental death. Detective Patrik Hedstrom leads the investigation which leads to to the girl's family, neighbors and closer to home. The plot mechanics are superb, the reveals are wonderfully staged and the final reckoning is as cold and dark as an night in the Arctic.
Camilla Lackberg has a wonderfully confident control of the story, using an extended cast and a long flashback that curl around each other until they finally touch with a savage understanding of how the past has driven the present. The cast are really well drawn, the smallest walk on part is given the same care and attention as the major player. Patrik Hedstron, a new father coping with the the complete upheaval of his life and trying to understand the new landscape he is in with his partner Erica while managing the investigation. Erica is trying to come to terms with being a mother and what it means to and for her, her friend Charlotte is the mother of the murdered child and has serious domestic problems of her own.
As the lives of the cast come under increased scrutiny and pressure they respond in very credible ways and begin to question long term choices and to re-assess their lives. Those who are capable of emotional movement are given the time and space to make new choices. Those who are set in selfishness get to follow their choices down to the bitter bleak ends they have made for themselves. Looming over the rest of the cast is an astonishing portrait of  monumental, poisonous selfishness that methodically distorts and consumes every other life that she is involved with.
The rest of the cast are measured against this character as she moved through the past and slowly into the present, her actions slowly setting the context for the events in the present. Camilla  Lackberg makes an intriguing choice with this character in comparison to the rest of the cast. She is an unbridled monster who sows destruction everywhere she goes, yet she carries the slightest of the consequences handed out to the others. The rest of the cast of fallible, weak and inherently selfish characters all suffer much greater consequences for their actions that she does. The sheer depth of her greed for self leaves no room for any sense of error or transgression, the rest of the cast have inklings, however vague, of the wrongs that have done. This gives their punishment a sharp edge that can actually cut into them.
A nice line of sharp humour keep the book from being unreadablely bleak and the way that the invincible self-regard of one of the cast is actually rewarded is a clever counterpoint to the main threads of the story. The translation by Steven T. Murray is transparent, this is clearly an Swedish story and cultural context, it reads in English without any distance, the reader is pulled directly in the lives and context of the cast.

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