Fjällbacka series: The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg

In the Fjällbacka series of detective novels, a brilliant young police investigator teams up with a local true crime author to take on the most baffling murder cases that crop up in that small Swedish coastal town and the nearby countryside. The novels comprise one of the best written and most popular series of crime novels from Scandinavia in recent years.

The community where the novels are set is tiny, with a population of fewer than one thousand people, but it swells in summertime with tourists. Fjällbacka lies on Sweden’s west along the Skagerrak arm of the North Sea. It’s an ancient settlement, far predating the Viking era, with Bronze Age rock art to be found within the surrounding area.

This post was updated on May 5, 2023.

“Sweden’s murder capital” of Fjällbacka viewed from above. Image: Washington Post

The Ice Princess (2003) — Murder on ice in a small Swedish town

The gruesome murder of a young woman has scandalized the small coastal town of Fjällbacka and given its incompetent police superintendent an opportunity to regain his position in the big city of Goteborg, or so he thinks. In fact, Patrik Hedstrøm, a young detective, is forced to carry out the investigation behind the superintendent’s back. The “ice princess” of the title is the victim, Alex Wijkner, a beautiful but cold and enigmatic young woman married to a highly successful businessman. As a child, Alex and a local writer named Ericka Falck were inseparable. Ericka is overcome with curiosity about the murder, and when Alex’s family presses her into writing a book about Alex, she picks up an excuse to insert herself into the investigation. That brings her into contact with Patrik, and soon love is in the air. Read the full review.

The Preacher (2004) — A great example of Swedish noir

It’s a sweltering summer on the coast of Sweden, and Erica Falck is suffering mightily under the weight and anxiety of eight months of pregnancy. Her partner, Patrik Hedstrøm, has taken a vacation in hopes of supporting her as best he can at home. Then Patrik is called in to head up a deeply puzzling murder mystery. The nude body of a woman in her late teens has been discovered lying in the open in a spot frequented by tourists. Beneath her tortured corpse lie two skeletons, each suspected to be the victim of a similar murder 24 years earlier. Read the full review.

The Stonecutter (2005) — Another complex Scandinavian thriller

We first meet the stonecutter of the title in 1923. We follow him, the young woman he falls in love with, and their descendants through the nine decades that follow. Meanwhile, in alternating scenes, we find our way back into the lives of Läckberg‘s two protagonists, Patrik Hedstrøm and Ericka Falck, who are now living together with their two-month-old daughter. Ericka is experiencing post-partum depression and resents all the time Patrik spends on his job. The resentment multiplies when he is assigned to the case of a seven-year-old girl who has been found floating dead by the shore. Read the full review.

The Stranger (2006) — Another engrossing mystery from Camilla Läckberg

Detective Inspector Patrik Hedstrøm and true-crime writer Ericka Falck are raising their months-old daughter, Maya. Or, rather, Ericka is doing all the work. Patrik’s job regularly intrudes. To compound Ericka’s problem, their wedding is imminent, and she’s been unable to find the time to make any plans. To make matters even worse, her younger sister, Anna, and two young children have moved into the house. Anna is in a deep depression after killing her abusive husband in self-defense, leaving Ericka to raise all three children—and, presumably, to make all the arrangements for the wedding in her spare time.

Then Patrik’s sporadic help at home dries up almost completely as he is assigned a brutal and baffling case. A middle-aged woman stinking of alcohol has driven her car off the road and crashed into a tree, apparently either an accident or a suicide. Patrik isn’t so sure, though. And it soon becomes clear that his doubts are well placed. Read the full review.

The Hidden Child (2007) — A Nazi medal in Sweden triggers a journey into the past

Erica discovers a World War II Nazi medal among the few items that remain from the life of her mother, who died in an automobile crash four years earlier. While she succumbs to curiosity and sets out to learn how and why that medal came into her mother’s possession, Patrik becomes independently involved in helping his colleagues in the police investigate the brutal murder of the old man to whom Erica turned for information about the medal. (He was an historian and a collector of Nazi artifacts.) Meanwhile, Patrik’s insufferable boss, Mellberg, becomes involved in an affair that—finally, for the first time in the series—proves that he isn’t just stupid, lazy, and self-important (although he is all of those things.) Read the full review.

The Drowning (2008) — Another solid series of Scandinavian thrillers

A popular, forty-something man in town goes missing at the same time as a close friend of his is gaining nationwide renown for his brilliant first novel. Meanwhile, the novelist is agonizing over mysterious, unsigned letters he’s been receiving at intervals — and someone (else?) in town appears to be having nightmares about a tragic event in his (or her?) past. Both men (as well as the dreamer?) are friends of . . . you guessed it: Patrik Hedstrøm and his very pregnant and very inquisitive wife. Läckberg shows great skill in maintaining the energy and suspense of this complex, offbeat tale. Read the full review.

The Lost Boy (2009) — A Swedish thriller without crazed serial killers

Against the backdrop of tension at the Hedstrøm-Falck home, six other stories begin unspooling. A former classmate of Ericka’s has hidden in her cottage on a nearby island with her five-year-old son; her husband has been murdered, and they hope to evade the same fate. In flashbacks to the 1870s, a young woman living on the same island has been virtually enslaved by her cruel husband. A brother-and-sister team of con artists, having swindled a fortune from the town of  Fjällbacka, is preparing to flee. The town’s treasurer has been murdered, too. A battered wife and her two children are holed up in Copenhagen, having fled Sweden. And Patrik’s incompetent boss, the chief of police, is getting on the nerves of the two younger lesbian women who live with him and his girlfriend. (One of them is her daughter.) Read the full review.

At this writing, the seven books described above are the only ones in the Fjällbacka series that are available in English for the Kindle. Since The Lost Boy, Camilla Läckberg has published three additional books in the series. Buried Angels (2011), The Ice Child (2014), and The Girl in the Woods (2017) have been translated into English but are not yet available for the Kindle.

About the author

Camilla Läckberg has written five other books in addition to the ten published to date in the Fjällbacka series. She was born in that town in 1974, so a few years ago it was reasonable to expect that we would see a lot more additions to the series. Alas, no more have appeared, at least in English. Already, her work has been published in 60 countries in more than 40 languages. A leading British newspaper called her “the rock star of Nordic noir.”

As the author notes on her website, “even when she was a little girl it was clear that she had a talent for storytelling. She wrote her first book when she was just five years old; ‘Tomten’ [The Santa Claus] was a thrilling and bloodthirsty tale, showing a fascination with the darker sides of humanity even at such an early age.”

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