Cover image of "The Stonecutter," a Scandinavian thriller

Camilla Läckberg is Sweden’s best-selling native author, and it’s not difficult to understand why. The series of detective novels she has set in the small seaside town of Fjällbacka features complex plots and three-dimensional characters — lots of them. The Stonecutter, the third in Läckberg’s series, is no different from the earlier novels in both these respects. But it doesn’t quite measure up to them because it’s relatively predictable despite its complexity. This is one Scandinavian thriller that doesn’t match the impact of those that preceded it.

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, detective Patrik Hedström and crime writer 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.

The Stonecutter (Fjällbacka #3) by Camilla Läckberg (2005) 528 pages ★★★★☆

Given that The Stonecutter is a mystery novel, we naturally expect that the two plotlines will somehow intersect. But that’s a long way coming. In the course of the story, we are introduced to the lives of the dead girl’s parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and next-door neighbors, Patrik’s mother, Ericka’s sister, and four of Patrik’s colleagues at the Tanumshede police station. And these are just the major characters! Läckberg drills down deeply enough into all their lives that we feel we’ve met them. Unfortunately, so many of them are stupid, self-destructive, psychotic, or otherwise deeply damaged that we’re left shivering by the end. Läckberg is a skillful writer, but it would be a stretch to say that her novels are fun to read.

You’ll find the other Patrik Hedstrøm and Ericka Falck mysteries here, linked to my reviews: The Fjällbacka series of Swedish thrillers from Camilla Läckberg.

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