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Heart-stopping Thrillers: The Sandman

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.

It’s no secret that I love crime fiction. I especially like Scandinavian crime fiction and get really excited at the prospect of fresh blood on the scene, so to speak.

Given the chance to read Lars Keplar’s new book, The Sandman, I was all over it. Turns out that a) Lars Keplar is actually a pseudonym for husband and wife writers, Alexander Ahndoril and Alexandra Coelho Ahdoril and b) it’s not a brand new series at all. The Sandman is actually the 4th book in a series about Inspector Joona Linna.

In the interest of brevity (and not giving too much away because it’s a complicated book but the element of surprise is obviously incredibly important to this genre) here is the synopsis from Random House:

sandman

During a cold winter night in Stockholm a man is found walking alongside a railway bridge, suffering from hypothermia and legionella. After he’s rushed to the hospital, it’s discovered that, according to a death certificate, the man has been dead for over seven years. He is believed to be a victim of notorious serial killer Jurek Walter, who was arrested years ago by Detective Inspector Joona Linna and sentenced to a life of total isolation in forensic psychiatric care. As Joona Linna investigates where the “dead man” has been all these years, some unexpected evidence leads to the reopening of a cold case. Danger is imminent, and someone needs to get under the skin of the serial killer–fast–as they are running out of time.

Considering this was the 4th in a series, I didn’t feel like I was missing large parts of back story. In fact, I found that this was a complete standalone book (although I want to go back and read the other three). Joona Linna was a completely formed character even without the other books. I got the sense that there was more to the relationships with his colleagues that didn’t get much attention this time, but not enough to distract me and leave me wondering “what’s that about?”

Lars Keplar is following in the fine Scandinavian crime writer tradition of being messed up as f%&^! This book! It was a complete and total thrill ride. You should maybe be prepared not to read this right before bed or in the dark, or really if you’re alone at all. I definitely wouldn’t read it standing at a bus stop alone in the dark. That would be terrifying. I found myself reading strategically – leaving off at a point where I felt the characters were safe for a bit; if I needed to stop reading but I was at a really crazy part, I just kept reading until I had reached the safety point.

A lot happens in this book and it’s all significant. But if you take a peek at the Goodreads comments, you will notice that people were quite put out by the ending. Without giving anything away, the ending is a bit open-ended. As soon as I finished it, I jumped over to Google to see if I could find any evidence that this would not be the final book in the series. If it is…that’s not any kind of closure. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out if there will be another book.

If you are looking for a ridiculous thrill ride that gets your blood pumping on cold, rainy fall days, get yourself a copy of The Sandman. I haven’t enjoyed a thriller like that in a long time.

2

The Ice Princess

The term “Swedish crime fiction” probably brings images of a certain girl with a tattoo to mind. Stieg Larsson can be considered the ambassador for a new crop of internationally celebrated Swedish authors. These days, Swedish authors are more known for their love of bloodshed and their exploration of seriously twisted relationships than for a redheaded orphan by the name of Pippi Longstocking.

Stieg Larsson is perhaps the best known internationally but he has been joined by Liza Marklund, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Mikael Niemi, and finally, the reason for this post, Camilla Lackberg.

I’m a huge fan of the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson. It always makes me sad that he died before they took off the way that they did. I didn’t think that anyone would come close to the twisted tale of murder and sexual deviousness that Larsson created.

But that was before I read any of Camilla Lackberg’s work. Take a look at her author’s photo and you would never suspect that she is capable of the kind of plots that she comes up with.

The book we’re talking about here is The Ice Princess. Erica Falck returns to the small town of Fjallbacka  (which is a real place and so pretty!) after the death of her parents. She is trying to put her life back together when the body of Alex Wijkner, her childhood friend, is found frozen in her bathtub with her wrists sliced open. Initially the police assume that it was suicide but soon other clues surface that point to a much more sinister occurrence. After speaking with Alex’s parents Erica, a writer, decides to dig a little deeper and tell the story of the real Alex as a sort of tribute.

Even I wasn’t prepared for what she finds! Lackberg is twisted! I don’t know what they put in the water in Sweden but these Swedish authors come up with the most warped and crazy plot twists, usually sexual. I couldn’t stop reading this book. I was thrilled to discover that The Ice Princess was the first in a trilogy – the next bookThe Preacher is currently sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to crack it.

One thing that I really struggled with in the Millennium series was the tendency to refer to everyone by their (very similar sounding) last names. Lackberg doesn’t do this and it’s such a relief! Both series are wonderfully Swedish though – referring often to Swedish coffee drinking habits, cooking traditions and trips to Swedish neighborhoods and stores. If I’m honest, this is one of my favourite things about the books. They really are a window into another kind of life – even though I’m sure that most Swedish lives do not involve murder and perverse sexual relationships.

I’m telling everyone I know about Camilla Lackberg. I might be obsessed. I saw The Preacher in a bookstore last week and put down an Agatha Christie I had in my hand so that I could purchase it instead. I chose Lackberg over Christie! I’m too far gone.