The Stonecutter is a crime novel by Swedish author Camilla Läckberg, who’s also written The Ice Princess and The Preacher, among others. A blurb on the bookjacket hints that Läckberg could be the next Stieg Larsson. Certainly in terms of genre and success: she’s currently Sweden’s best-selling author. But while Larsson focused on Stockholm-based characters—clever, sophisticated, well-connected, or tech-savvy—Läckberg populates her books with small-town folks who solve their mysteries almost in spite of themselves.
Läckberg’s chief investigator is Patrik Hedström, an officer at the Tanumshede police station, outside the coastal village of Fjällbacka in southwest Sweden. Ambitious and hard-working, Patrik is hampered by a foolish boss and some ineffective colleagues—and, luckily, aided by his younger colleague Martin and the station’s efficient secretary Annika. Unlike other detective novels and perhaps more like real life, Patrik forgets obvious steps, misses clues, and makes mistakes. An extra person or two might be harmed before he catches on—and the reader will definitely know who the killer is before he does—but Patrik finally pulls the strands together (this time abetted by a chance episode of Crime Night on the Discovery channel).
The Stonecutter is a brew of horrific crime, secrets from the past, domestic drama, local color, and police procedure—with odd juxtapositions of the terrible and the banal. After receiving troubling information about the death of a seven-year-old neighbor, Patrik heads to Martin’s office to share the details. But instead, “he couldn’t resist teasing his young colleague a little” about his girlfriend. The two banter back and forth about their respective living arrangements until “[a]ll at once Patrik’s face turned serious, as he remembered that they were facing something that was as far from a joke as one could get.”
I’m not sure if I keep coming back to Läckberg’s series despite these ill-fitting pieces or precisely because of them: those weird ways that she mixes devastating deaths in with the everyday details of what to have for lunch.