Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Review of The Hidden Child by Camilla Lackberg (Harper 2011, Swedish 2007)

True crime writer Erica Falck has finally decided to open the trunk left by her late mother and to sort through its contents.  What she finds is a set of diaries from the early 1940s and a Nazi medal.  She takes the medal to a local history teacher to try and uncover its significance.  A couple of months later the man is found dead, seemingly murdered just a few days after she had visited him.  While the police investigate the death, Erica, intrigued by her mother’s past, also starts to look for answers, aided by her husband, Patrik, a police detective who is on paternity leave to look after their young daughter.  It is clear that the history teacher had been one of her mother’s childhood friends, along with three others.  They are unwilling to talk about the past, but a path to the secret they share has been opened and Erica and the police are determined to chart a route down it.

The Hidden Child is a well plotted story about two connected crimes in the small coastal town of Fjällbacka, Sweden, one committed in 1945, the other in the present day.  The tale has two particular strengths: a fairly intricate plot told from multiple perspectives that has depth, resonance, and attention to detail; and very nice and detailed characterisations, with in-depth back stories and interchanges.  Indeed, the tale is as much a soap opera concerning the families of Erica Falck and Patrik Hedström, the small team of cops at the local police station, and the lives connected to the case as it is a crime tale.  However, whilst a lot of this soap opera drama is interesting and engagingly told, much of it is somewhat surplus to requirements with respect to the main storyline (though I suspect some of it is pretty central to the series).  The ending is a little telegraphed, especially as the number of viable candidate murderers is whittled down, but nonetheless Lackberg manages to spin out intrigue and nice reveals under the end.  The result is a multi-threaded, well paced story that kept this reader turning the pages. 

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