Wednesday, January 21, 2015

TIS A HARD TALE The Stonecutter by Camilla Lackberg


Just finished another novel by Camilla Lackberg called  The Stonecutter.

The action is once again centered in the seaside Swedish town of  Fjallbacka where the semi-functional police department labors to solve the death of a seven year old girl.  We open on the finding of a body in the sea and then shift to 1923 where a stonecutter in a local quarry finds himself in a sexual relationship with the conniving daughter of his boss.   

Lackberg alternates these two seemingly disconnected and time separated events until they coalesce in the present for the surprising finish.  Almost immediately in the present day plot we discover that the young girl did drown, but the water in her lungs was fresh thus pointing to a murder rather than an accident. The lead investigator, Dectective Patrick Hedstrom, struggles to find a motive for the killing and while doing so we meet up with a ragged assortment of dysfunctional families—including his own.  This may be socialized Eden Sweden,  but the suspects all suffer from a broad gallery of physical ills and psychic disturbances ranging from extreme religious conservatism and autism to child beating and pedophilia.  Under the idyllic exterior sits a seething caldron of dystopic fury.  

Initially it is hard to see how the title of the book fits into the murder investigation, but slowly you do begin to see that the stories of the multiple families all demonstrate what happens when hardened attitudes rule.  Stone has no give; it must be hammered and split.  In Lackberg’s world human behavior hardens to rock and when it breaks it releases unforgiving  cruelty, vengeance, and violence.   Her villains seem to have monsters locked in  their skulls and the victims pay and pay by suffering at first and then returning the suffering to new generations.  

Put this together with the cold bleak Nordic landscape and you have a chilling story that is only partially redeemed by the discovery of how important parental love is to the family and the body politic.   


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