Ayo Onatade is an avid reader of crime and mystery fiction. She has been writing reviews, interviews and articles on the subject for the last 12 years; with an eclectic taste from historical to hardboiled, short stories and noir films
Buried Angels is the eighth in Camilla Lackberg’s very successful series set in the Swedish seaside town of Fjallbacka, with most of the action taking place on Valo, a holiday island across the bay.
A couple are refurbishing a long abandoned house, working together though their lives are drifting further and further apart after losing their child. Elsewhere in the area, other couples bicker, conceal secrets, deal with their own tragedies and simply get on with their daily work. A politician raises his physically beautiful but probably unlovely head. Meanwhile, tantalising glimpses into a long-past tragedy string together to form what seems to be simply a subplot, but may be more important.
The couple we most want to focus on are local policeman Detective Patrik Hedstrom and his crime writer wife Erica Falck, who are blessedly normal functioning human beings, given to occasional bickers and child-care issues. Increasingly, however, we are drawn into the story of the Valo couple, Tobias and Ebba, who are attacked as they work on their house.
The house has already seen what must be a major crime: the disappearance of every last one of Ebba’s family (why on earth should she want to go back there?). But no evidence has ever been found, in those pre-crime scene investigator days, of any wrong-doing. Eventually what everyone fears is uncovered, and a satisfyingly complex denouement evolves, involving all what we thought were minor characters and a major historical figure too.
This is a very enjoyable read, and will no doubt thrill Lackberg’s millions of fans. But as someone new to the writer and to the series, I had one or two difficulties. I felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters in the exposition. Clearly some will be familiar to regular readers, but the barrage of unfamiliar names in an unfamiliar language (all those umlauts!) prevented me from being fully engaged for some time: I needed to know more about the characters’ visual appearances, perhaps, or have some other identifier. The other drawback is that the text is translated not into English but into American, and some of the vocabulary and idioms grated; what was probably clear, lucid prose occasionally seemed quite flat in translation. And though I loved the easy domesticity of the policeman and his wife, I didn’t quite buy the fundamental concept of a crime writer dabbling in an actual investigation. Or perhaps they do things differently in rural Sweden.
If you’re already a fan, dash out and buy this well-crafted and elegantly plotted novel. If you’re new to the series, you might want to get used to the scenario by reading an earlier novel.