STENHUGGAREN – THE STONE CUTTER
BY LÄCKBERG, CAMILLA
When one of Fjällbacka’s lobster fishermen finds a little girl drowned, her death is said to be an accident. But the autopsy reveals traces of fresh water combined with soap in her mouth. The conclusion is that someone has drowned the girl indoors, undressed her and then thrown her into the sea. But who could have wanted to do such a horrible thing to a little girl? And why? Patrik Hedström, whose girlfriend Erica has just given birth to their first child, once again becomes involved in a complicated murder investigation together with his colleagues at Tanumshede’s police station. Behind Fjällbacka’s idyllic façade lurks another reality – with feuding neighbours, family conflicts and child pornography rings.
Camilla Läckberg’s third crime novel about Patrik Hedström and Erica Falck is as action-packed as Isprinsessan (The Ice Princess) and Predikanten (The Preacher). Events from Fjällbacka in the 1920s are woven together with the present, and it turns out that the key to solving the riddle lies in the past…
ABOUT THE BOOK
First published by Forum, Sweden, 2005.
RIGHTS SOLD TO
Sweden, Månpocket (paperback)
Sweden, Bonnier Audio (audio book)
Sweden, E-lib (e-book)
Sweden/The Netherlands, Grote Letter (Swedish large print)
Albania, Botimet Dudaj
Arabic, Sama Publishing
Canada, HarperCollins Canada
Catalonia, Ara Llibres
China, Shanghai Yuzon
Czech Republic, Motto/Albatros
Denmark, People’s Press
Estonia, Fookus Meedia
France, Actes Sud
Germany, G. Kiepenheuer/Ullstein
Italy, Marsilio Editori
Japan, Shuei Sha
The Netherlands, Ambo Anthos
Poland, J Santorski/Czarna Owca
Portugal, Asa Leya
Romania, Editura Trei
Slovenia, Ucila International
Turkey, Dogan Egmont
Nominated for the Best Swedish Crime Novel Award by the Swedish Crime Academy in 2005
Sweden, SVT (TV rights)
Three novels – three successes. First came Isprinsessan (The Ice Princess), then The Preacher (Predikanten) and most recently The Stonecutter (Stenhuggaren). Three crime novels – three huge successes. Camilla Läckberg has taken her place among the Swedish crime writing elite, and she’s here to stay. Considering her relatively young age, Camilla Läckberg is an enormously compelling writer. You would think that she’s done nothing but write crime novels her entire life. A Camilla Läckberg book is guaranteed to be exciting.
Stenhuggaren (The Stonecutter) is suggestive and relentless and just plain super exciting.
Läckberg’s first two books, Isprinsessan (The Ice Princess) and Predikanten (The Preacher), were exciting and well-written. But I would have to say that with Stenhuggaren (The Stonecutter) she has grown more polished and has established a powerful identity as an author. She is making ever-swifter progress through rough territory and very soon can be included among the group considered to be Sweden’s top crime authors.
And this is really good. Sharp, exciting and well on a par with other authors in the genre. I can’t wait for book number four about Hedström and his friends on the west coast. Superb, Läckberg!
The story, which finally catches up the murder investigation and thus the present day, is very skilfully told and the approach works well. Overall, to me this is Läckberg’s best book.
As one of the seven deadly sins, greed is an obvious candidate for the most common criminal motive in detective fiction. The variations are endless; it can be placed in new historical and geographical settings and filled with essentially different psychological and social motives. In Camilla Läckberg’s third novel set in Fjällbacka, Stenhuggaren (The Stonecutter), the reader is presented with an interesting, if not particularly original, treatment of this classic ingredient.
The introduction is effective in all its unpleasantness. A little girl is found drowned. What at first appears to be an accident quickly turns out to be something even worse: the cold-blooded murder of a child. Alongside the insightful description of how the parents deal with their grief, an increasingly complicated story emerges with ties extending back to the 1920s. Läckberg’s ability to juggle a variety of issues – and crimes – simultaneously is impressive. Even if it’s easy to keep track of the cast of characters, new and perplexing information about them constantly comes to light. Just the right degree of uncertainty keeps the reader’s attention. The pace of the narrative is calm and methodical, with ample space given to psychological developments, at the same time as the suspense inexorably increases the closer we get to the resolution of this tragedy of fate. (…) On one level the novel deals with being a parent, and specifically the total upheaval of everyday life awaiting all parents of young children. But on a deeper level the novel also poses questions about heritage and environment and whether children must repeat the mistakes of their parents. A streak of social determinism arises here that isn’t altogether easy to accept. At the same time exceptions to this deeply fatalistic compulsion for repetition thankfully do occur. But there are also other problems with the depiction of evil and guilt in the book. Evil is exemplified through a failed social climber. When one is forced to move down the social ladder, from one’s naturally elevated position to the dirty reality of the proletariat, so much hate is released that all moral restraints disappear, according to the book. The mere suspicion of an impending social demotion, in the 1920s as well as in our own time, can therefore unleash monstrous qualities in people, which seem to cause regression into a threatened, and therefore extremely dangerous, creature. And if that weren’t enough there is the implication that evil reaches its cruellest level when emanating from a female being, in the novel equipped with a composite of stereotypes for the female essence from the last two hundred years. She is cold as ice and manipulative, theatrical and seductive, a greedy consumer and a destroyer of tradition. But perhaps it is a question of a Fay Weldonish she-devil, liberating, subversive and demystifying? Unfortunately, this is not so. Rather, it is an un-ironic remake of what, by comparison, emerges as the extremely nuanced view of women such as in Madame Bovary or A Madman’s Defense.
Magnus Persson, Svenska Dagbladet
Läckberg’s job is to make the reader pleasurably uncomfortable – one of her ironclad skills. This latest novel (translated by Steven T Murray) adds another level cannily designed to unsettle us: a measured examination of the elements of determinism in human nature, and the readiness to cut loose moral restraint when passionately held desires are frustrated. There is also a lacerating picture of an unrestrained female psyche, both attractive and monstrous. Läckberg may be of little interest to the more salacious British tabloids, but she should be firmly in the consciousness of the readers of this newspaper.
Barry Forshaw, The Independent