Erica Falck moves into the family home in Fjallbackae upon the death of her parents, both victims of a road traffic accident. She takes up occupancy with the view of attending to her parents' personal possessions but also to use it as a writer's base from which to pen a biography of a Swedish Nobel prize winner for literature. All this is disrupted when she is alerted by one of the townsfolk to a macabre discovery.
A friend from her childhood, Alexandra Wijkner, is found dead in a frozen bath tub and becomes the Ice Princess. Wrists slashed, the suggestion that it is suicide soon gives way to a wider investigation. Her business partner was not convinced that Alex had become the Ice Princess of her own volition: happy and pregnant she had everything to live for. Self-induced death seemed out of the question.
Patrik Hedström is one of the detectives assigned to the case. The parents of the late Alex have asked Erica to write something in memory of their daughter, which she in turn considers turning into a novel based on the life of her childhood friend, who had made her reputation in the town through work in an art gallery. No surprise that Erica's path should cross with that of Hedström, whom she had known from childhood. Before long romance is in the air, a natural progression from the designs and desires Hedström had harboured in his teenage days.
Nordic Noir invariably works best in the cold, as this one does: when the characters are wrapped up to protect them from the chill, the biting wind, the invasiveness of the blizzard, when the streets of Copenhagen, Oslo or Stockholm are snow swept and the sun is a distant unseen planet in the dark recesses of the universe. Viewing a Danish series yesterday evening, Darkness: Those Who Kill, the sun stroked motorways tended to detract from the atmospherics.
Fjallbackae is changing. No longer the remote fishing village it once was, there is a more cosmopolitan air to it as it ambles into the resort business. In a seller's market, money is to be made if owners can read the market and cash in at the optimum moment. Erica faces pressure from a brother-in-law who wants the family home sold off so that he can acquire the financial means to resettle back in England with Erica's sister, Anna. Abusive and domineering, his hold over Anna needs to be frustrated just as urgently as his appetite for easy money.
Bertil Mellberg is the cop in charge of the town but this is the result of a demotion after he had messed up elsewhere. For him the opportunity to solve the mystery might be his way out of exile. His bumptiousness, invisible only to himself, should not prove a roadblock. Bumbling Bertil is the clown of the carnival whose character adds colour to the mosaic.
All these sub-narratives feed into the main story like tributaries to a river in full flow to a yet unspecified destination. To add to the meandering course, Alex is not the uncomplicated person of childhood. Secrets and lies, the answer is to be found in the past of Fjallbackae. The future with Falck and Hedström, based on this first outing, seems promising.
Camilla Lackberg, 2017, The Ice Princess. Harper Collins. ISBN: 978-0008264444