Cover image of "The Drowning," one of the better Scandinavian thrillers

Scandinavia exports as many thriller writers as Japan exports cars — or so it would seem. Here comes Camilla Lackberg on the heels of . . . well, if you read crime fiction, you’re familiar with the authors of the many Scandinavian thrillers that have cracked the U.S. bestseller lists. (Oh, okay: Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall . . . need I go on?) And, even though I’ve just discovered Ms. Lackberg, it turns out that The Drowning is the sixth book in her series about small-town police detective Patrik Hedstrom, and her novels about him and his travails and triumphs are of the sort that are marketed here as “international bestsellers.” Which means, I suppose, that they were translated into German, French, and maybe Italian and bought (perhaps read, too) by lots of Europeans.

So, let’s take a look at Detective Hedstrom and the world he inhabits, as depicted in The Drowning. He seems to be the equivalent of an English police inspector, with less senior detectives under his command. They show varying degrees of competence and reliability, but Hedstrom’s boss, the police chief, is a lazy, headline-hogging incompetent. Hedstrom’s wife, a writer of true-life crime books, is probably at least as good a detective as he is, and she seems bound to prove it by surreptitiously digging into her husband’s files at night and meddling in his investigations. So far, so good.

The Drowning (Fjallbacka #6) by Camilla Lackberg (2008) 480 pages ★★★★☆

However, Hedstrom doesn’t come into the picture in The Drowning until well into the story. Before that point, we’re immersed in what is clearly shaping up to be a psychological thriller of large proportions. 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 Hedstrom and his very pregnant and very inquisitive wife, a successful true-crime writer named Erica Falck. Hedstrom shares center stage with Falck in the ensuing investigation.

Lackberg shows great skill in maintaining the energy and suspense of this complex, offbeat tale. I found the resolution to become obvious, but only about two-thirds of the way through the book, which is better than in the case of most crime novels I’ve read. This book is a superior effort that lives up to (most of) the extravagant language in the jacket copy.

For more great reading

For a complete list of the Patrik Hedstrøm and Ericka Falck mysteries, linked to my reviews, go here: The Fjällbacka series of Swedish thrillers from Camilla Läckberg.

And for a guide to the best Scandinavian mysteries and thrillers, check out The best Nordic noir series from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland.

You might also enjoy my posts:

Go to Jussi-Adler Olsen’s Department Q thrillers for links to my reviews of another series of Scandinavian noir novels.

And you can always find my most popular reviews, and the most recent ones, on the Home Page.