Many American readers discovered a taste for Nordic crime fiction in the three best-selling thrillers by the late Stieg Larsson, starting with "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."
Swedish writer Camilla Läckberg also has been turning out Scandinavian murder mysteries, and the first two are now out in English translations for the U.S. market. She has published seven crime novels in her series, the first in 2003, before Larsson's "Millennium" books saw print.
So it seems unfair that Läckberg, a best-selling author in Sweden and Europe, now must bear comparison to Larsson. She is a fine writer in her own right, and not a successor to him. "The Ice Princess," the first in the series, is a top-notch thriller, one of the best of the genre.
The novel introduces Erica Falck, a writer of obscure biographies who is in her late 30s, single, and worried about it. She moves back to her late parents' empty house in a small coastal resort town in Sweden, and soon learns that a woman who was her childhood friend has been murdered nearby.
The detective assigned to the case is clever, handsome, divorced Patrik Hedstrom, and their joint investigation into a series of unsolved killings leads to interesting places. The plot has creepy twists that keep you guessing, and the characters are depicted with subtlety and insight.
As for the second novel, "The Preacher," saying much about the plot would give away the ending of the first book. A man is snatching up and killing young women, and it is a race against time to identify and catch him. Unfortunately, Falck sits mostly on the sidelines, reducing the dramatic tension with Hedstrom. The book seems more like a police procedural, though a good one.
Both were translated by Steven T. Murray, who also translated Larsson's books under the pseudonym Reg Keeland.
David Shaffer is an assistant business editor at the Star Tribune.