A whodunnit with a thousand suspects - Sue de Groot reviews Camilla Lackberg's latest contribution to the Nordic noir sphere
Published in the Sunday Times
The Girl in the Woods *****
Camilla Lackberg, HarperCollins, R285
Camilla Lackberg has amassed millions of devoted followers with her series of crime novels set in the Swedish fishing village of Fjällbacka – which actually exists in the real world.
It has fewer than 1,000 permanent residents and is deathly quiet in winter, but in summer turns into a playground for Scandinavian tourists.
The Girl in the Woods, Lackberg’s 10th novel featuring author Erica Falck and her police detective husband, Patrik Hedstrom, is set in summer, when the influx of holiday-makers creates a wider pool of suspects.
A four-year-old girl has been murdered, her body found in the same place as that of a similar victim 30 years previously.
The two teenage girls who were accused of the earlier crime are now adults and conveniently present.
One is a Hollywood film star who has returned to her home town for the first time since the incident. The other is married to a sociopathic UN soldier who is on home leave.
Then there are the Syrian refugees, whose safe asylum in Sweden does not come with a warm welcome from all its citizens.
And there are the local high-school kids with too much time on their hands and the usual adolescent problems.
And then – because Lackberg loves to weave ancient history into modern mystery – there is a woman who lived in these parts in the 17th century, when literal witch hunts were all the rage.
Lackberg cleverly connects multiple tales of violence and ostracism in a narrative that climbs to a terrifying crescendo, but there is much light relief in the lives of her extended family of regular characters.
Even police chief Bertil Mellberg displays flashes of charm between being his usual bumbling and graceless self.
He is also the recipient of the best put-down in the book: when he enquires whether refugee children eat cinnamon buns, detective Paula Morales replies tartly: “Of course they do. They’re from Syria, not outer space.” @deGrootS1
- The Girl in the Woods by Camilla Lackberg
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Published in the Sunday Times
What book changed your life?
The Struggle is My Life by Nelson Mandela. I read it when I was at school before I became politically involved in the struggle.
Who is your favourite fictional hero?
I loved the animals in the African traditional stories, especially uMvundla, the Hare.
What phrase do you most overuse?
“That’s life.” I think what I am saying is accept your situation and work from there.
You’re hosting a literary dinner with three writers. Who’s invited?
Zakes Mda, the late Chris van Wyk and Peter Mtuze.
What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
What novel would you give children to introduce them to literature?
My kids enjoyed Holes by Louis Sachar when they were young teens.
What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?
Xhosa Poets and Poetry by Jeff Opland, a collection of Xhosa literature. My children gave it to me as a Christmas present last year.
What is the last thing that you read that made you laugh out loud?
Parts of the book Shirley, Goodness and Mercy by Chris van Wyk – his life and how he portrayed it was poignant and funny.
What keeps you awake at night?
A fear of losing our freedom, and my children having to fight for emancipation all over again.
What books are on your bedside table?
If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
There is no substitute for hard work. Being humble is always safe. It is cheaper to keep yourself out of trouble than to get out of trouble.
To Survive and Succeed: From Farm Boy to Businessman by Khusta Jack is published by Kwela, R280
- To Survive and Succeed by Khusta Jack
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Bastian Balthasar Bux ontdek in ’n boekwinkel ’n geheimsinnige boek: Die eindelose storie. Opgewonde neem hy dit saam en word ingetrek in die wilde avonture van die helde Atréju en sy gevaarlike opdrag: om die ryk van Fantasieë en sy heerser die kinderlike keiserin te red. Wanneer Bastian besef dat hierdie fantasiewêreld in groot gevaar verkeer, ontdek hy dat hy die aangewese persoon is om dit te red. Kan Bastian die grens tussen realiteit en sy verbeelding oorkom om Fantasieë te red? En hoe verlaat mens ’n ryk wat geen grense het nie?
OOR DIE OUTEUR
Michael Ende (1929–1995) tel vandag tot een van die bekendste en veelsydigste Duitse skrywers. Naas kinder- en jeugboeke skryf hy poëtiese prenteboeke, boeke vir volwassenes, teaterstukke en gedigte. Baie van sy boeke is verfilm of vir radio of televisie bewerk.
OOR DIE ILLUSTREERDER
Roswitha Quadflieg, gebore in 1949, het skilderkuns, illustrasie en tipografie studeer. Sy is ’n bekende skrywer in Duitsland en voormalige boekkunstenaar en -ontwerper. Die bladsyletters wat sy vir die oorspronklike.
OOR DIE VERTALER
Gunther Pakendorf is in 1944 op ’n sendingstasie by Middelburg, Transvaal gebore. Hy het wye navorsings-belangstellings en publikasies oor verskeie temas, onder andere klassieke Duitse letterkunde, die Modernisme, die eietydse Duitse roman, literêre tekste rondom die Holocaust, koloniale letterkunde en die geskrifte van die Duitse sendelinge in Suid-Afrika. Hy het verder ’n besondere belangstelling in die Afrikaanse letterkunde, veral in vergelykende aspekte van Duits en Afrikaans en literêre vertalings. Hy het einde 2009 afgetree en is tans Professor Emeritus by die Universiteit van Kaapstad asook Buitengewone Professor in die Departement Moderne Vreemde Tale aan die Universiteit van Stellenbosch.
- Die eindelose storie deur Michael Ende, vertaal deur Gunther Pakendorf
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