Saturday, 19 April 2014

Buried Angels by Camilla Lackberg *Released in Australia May 2014. Event at Reader's Feast, Melbourne

The latest book from Camilla Lackberg, Buried Angels, is thoroughly engaging and entertaining. The married couple, Patrik Hedstrom, policeman, and Erica Falck, author, become embroiled in a mystery from decades earlier on the island of Valö, off the coast of Fjällbacka. This island was home to the summer camp that children from Fjällbacka all attended, but the big white house has lain dormant for many years following the disappearance of the headmaster and his family one Easter Sunday afternoon. There were five pupils staying over that fateful weekend, but they were ostensibly out fishing all afternoon as they were not allowed to join the headmaster’s family luncheon. No-one has ever uncovered what happened to the family of five or why the youngest child, a little girl, was found wandering the house on her own. Fast-forward to the present time and the surviving girl is a married woman who has tragically lost her own child and she and her husband have come back to Valö to renovate the house and set it up as a Bed and Breakfast.

The reader is offered glimpses into the past, well before the headmaster and his family existed, through the portrayal of Dagmar, a desperately isolated woman living at the beginning of the 20th century, her daughter Laura, and, in turn, her daughter, Inez. These parallel stories, of the generations of the women of one family and the headmaster’s family, will intersect towards the end of the novel in a surprising and fateful way.

Concurrently, the lives of the five pupils, all boys, who were on the island at the time of the family’s disappearance are scrutinized and we come to realize that they have been holding secrets from that time all their lives. Nazism is part of this side of the narrative; Nazi Hermann Göring is thought to have visited one of the islands in the Fjällbacka archipelago, and this fact is woven into the plot, with his apparent visit to Sweden pivotal to the lives of Dagmar and her offspring.

Lackberg has created an intricate plot, spanning decades and generations of local families. As the reader works through it, and various things are revealed, it loses none of its fascination, keeping you engaged to the end. I think this is Camilla Lackberg’s best so far and I am thrilled that we will have the opportunity to hear Camilla speak of Buried Angels, and all her novels, when she joins us at Reader’s Feast in Melbourne, 19 May. Full details:

Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Son by Jo Nesbo

This just-released title by the creator of Harry Hole is an accomplished work, with an interesting storyline and a great twist at the end. The son of the title is Sonny Lofthus, a convicted and jailed murderer and drug addict who also happens to be the son of a deceased policeman. Sonny is special among the prison population. He attracts other inmates to him, seeking redemption; they believe he can bless them and relieve them of their guilt. Sonny plays this role, almost by default, his silence and stillness generating the response in others. We learn fairly quickly that Sonny is still using drugs, not least because he is being looked after by other prisoners but also because he is a scapegoat for the assistant prison administrator and others. They fabricate evidence that suggests Sonny, on day release, killed again thereby ensuring for him a supply of drugs and earning them a smokescreen for their actions.

As the story progresses we come to understand that Sonny is pivotal in many peoples' lives, people in positions of power and authority wanting to remain untouchable. When he escapes from prison, Sonny begins a quest to avenge his dead father, a man who supposedly took his own life because he was corrupt. This has never sat well with Sonny and he sets out to kill those he believes were in fact responsible for Ab Lofthus' death.

Another central character in the story is Simon Kefas, a policeman and one-time colleague of Sonny's father. He is regarded as somewhat of a maverick and a difficult man to work with; his wife is in the midst of a health scare that is robbing her of her sight and he is assigned a new detective whom he rightly picks as a woman on a fast-track through the police force to greater things. We learn early on that Simon was very close to Sonny’s father and, as the story unfolds, we also learn that there was a third policeman with whom both men were close and who is now in the higher ranks of the force.

Nesbo creates two equally captivating characters in Sonny and Simon. He also introduces a third character, Helen, who spends her life working with addicts and whom we come to have great sympathy for as her life intersects with the two men. As always with Nesbo, this is a book that has moments of great violence but it is not as extreme or shocking as in some of his earlier works. Nonetheless, he is an author for the seasoned crime fiction reader. The twist at the end is unexpected but, at the same ttime, utterly believable.