Nordic Noir is a bit of a cult genre when in comes to crime fiction. One I want to delve into further, having not read a lot from it so far. The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg cropped up a lot in my research on great examples of the genre to try. So I did.
Opening sentence: The house was desolate and empty.
Small town, big crime
Set in the truly stunning town of Fjallbacka in Sweden (pictured below, it is actually author Camilla Lackberg’s hometown), The Ice Princess starts as it means to go on – dramatically.
Erica Falck is a writer (of biographies, mainly) and our reluctant sleuth. When one of her childhood friends, Alexandra Wijkner, is found gruesomely murdered, she finds herself embroiled in the hunt for the truth – partly due to her link to the Wijkner family and partly due to her growing closeness to local police officer, Patrik Hedstrom.
While trying to crack the case, Erica also decides that this is the perfect time to turn her hand to fiction, specifically a novel about events she is currently living:
As a human being she writhed with repugnance at the thought, but as a writer she was jubilant.
As we learn more about Alexandra’s life, we see she was complex and had secrets. She had unlikely friendships and, yes, a reason that someone would want to murder her. The whole structure of the back-story and build up is expertly done.
I was hooked in terms of seeing how the story would play out and in many ways The Ice Princess is crime fiction by numbers (which I don’t mean as a negative in any way) – it has a fast pace, a steady revelation of new clues, and a very disturbing ending.
It was a feeling that the simple solutions were not always the correct ones.
2003 feels like a long time ago
The issue for me was that some parts of The Ice Princess feel very dated – it was written in 2003. Erica’s constant references to her weight and the way most female characters are described in regards to their attractiveness really grated on me. The general attitude to women is also quite poor – although I took this to be a reflection of the small-town mentality vibes where the story is set?
My other observation is that The Ice Princess feels like a Netflix series, by that I mean, we are given a deeper dive into most of the characters that appear, even the minor ones. Sometimes I liked this, sometimes, I found this a little excessive. I didn’t necessarily want a deep-dive into a few of them and it didn’t add to the plot.
It was a funny experience reading The Ice Princess – in some ways I can see why it’s held up as a great example of Nordic Noir however, there were just too many clichés and dated stereotypes to make me connect with it or fully get its high status.
I’m not deterred on my exploration into Nordic Noir though, I loved The Snowman by Jo Nesbo and would love a recommendation on what to try next? Hit me up in the comments!
- Get your copy of The Ice Princess here;
- Published by Harper 2003;
- 419 pages;
- My rating: