More nasty Baltic hijinks from Swedish mysterian Läckberg (The Ice Princess, 2010, etc.), one of several heirs apparent to Stieg Larsson.
If you think that a bicycle trip into the Swedish woods is a pleasant way to take a vacation, you’d certainly almost always be right. It’s just that statistical blip that’ll get you, and then, like the victims of an unknown killer in the precincts of the hick town of Fjallbacka, you wind up dead. Like Larsson, Läckberg delights in peeling the scrubbed white pine veneer off Swedish society and showing the wormy nastiness that lies beneath it. She acquaints us at the outset with a pair of hillbilly rednecks—yes, Sweden has them—who live like fat and happy parasites on vacationers from the big city, the matriarch of the family a former beauty who has now become morbidly obese and sharp-tongued. The two seem an ideal clutch to dig up a few skeletons and drape freshly dead young women atop them for entertainments too foul to tell, but then that wouldn’t be much of a story, not when there are fatter fish to fry still, among them members of a weird religious sect and their outwardly respectable leader. Well, any reader of mysteries knows that behind every respectable Bible-thumper lies a psycho, but also that behind every red-letter Bible lies a red herring. Caught up in all the brouhaha is police detective Patrik Hedstrom, who has been looking forward to family-values time with pregnant girlfriend Erica but who is now eaten up, in patented Swedish angst worthy of a Bergman flick, by the thought of a world in which terrible things happen to nice people. But is all that nastiness really enough to make Hedstrom talk like Barney Fife (“The whole Hult family feels like a hornets' nest," nudge, nudge)? It’s enough to make the reader suspect that the translator is hatching plots of his own, though it could be that Patrik really is a stiff among stiffs, if not a sheep among religious crazoids.
An adequate thriller, though without Larsson’s deft touches; sure to please church-hating readers of the Hitchens-Dawkins set.