I’m Off To America…

So by the time you read this I will either be on one of the three planes or three airports on my way to Asheville where I am going to Booktopia with Ann and Michael of Books on the Nightstand and some great authors and fabulous readers; on one of the two planes or airports it takes to get to Washington before staying with Thomas of My Porch and my Readers co-host for a while; or on the bus to or in New York. All in all as you can see I have an amazing few weeks ahead as I head out to the US.

While I have this time away I have also decided to have a bit of a blogging break and a breather. I have been mulling this for a while, along with what I want Savidge Reads to be going forward, and think a little time away from reviewing and waffling might be good for me and it. I was trying to schedule posts and reviews (sorry if you are Trespassing with Tremain with me, The Road Home will be live as soon as I get back, well give a day or two for jetlag) for while I was away and I think I am just too tired and a bit brain frazzled. Nothing was coming out as I wanted. But let us not get bogged down in that…

So instead I am going to read lots (well Gone with the Wind – one of Grans favourite books as a child – and The Goldfinch – which I keep calling The Goldfish- are two of the books in my hand luggage) as well as doing lots and lots and lots of bookish things out in the real world. Just on the other side of the Atlantic – eek, I am excited!!!!

If you decide you miss me don’t forget both You Wrote The BookThe Readers and Hear Read This which you can catch up on and are going live while I am away. You can still Ask Me Anything and make suggestions for Savidge Reads 4.0 when I come back. You can also go through the archives. Oh and I will probably be tweeting and instagramming @SavidgeReads (find me, follow me, stalk me) as I go about my travels and bookish excursions.*

Have an ace few weeks!

*There is every chance I might get the blogging itch as I did in Sweden and suddenly start posting, though one of my hosts (Thomas) has threatened to tie me to the bed Misery-style and force me to read all the books he loves and watch A Room With a View on repeat if I even think about it!!!

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Reading Retreats #1: The Weather Islands, Sweden

It is a general rule of thumb that when any of us go away, avid reader or not, we always make sure we have some reading time scheduled in on our holidays, yet we never think of having a holiday that is simply a reading retreat do we? I have to admit I find it hard to find a quiet space to read in my own home so wouldn’t it be great to have trips away that were just ‘reading retreats’? Be they somewhere without readers and authors and booky types or somewhere completely out of the way, surrounded in almost silence where you can just read and relax in the remoteness. In the case of the later I might have discovered the perfect place, The Weather Islands. The furthest islands West of Sweden yet within 40 minutes of a boat ride of the mainland.

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Väderöarna is a protected marine nature reserve where one passed you can only see the horizon for miles, no sign of life apart from seals, gulls and the odd dolphin on occasional summers. It actually feels like you are on the edge of the world. On it however there are some holiday cottages and the wonderful Väderöarna Vardshaus Inn, a wonderful guest house that sits right between two of the bays that interlinks Storo Island and Ramno Island. These buildings were all part of a community of pilots from the 1750’s until the 1960’s. These were set up with a lighthouse on the islands as the amount of ships that were wrecked in the area was endangering lives at sea but also putting off trade on the land. It is like walking straight into the past.

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As you can see from the above pictured, the beautiful view from my bedroom, the Island isn’t teaming with people, in fact there are only about 10 or 12 buildings most of which are summer homes and so the silence is incredible. Perfect for reading! However even I can’t solely read for a whole day when there are such natural wonders around but fret not there are three options available on the island when you need a break from a book. The first is hiking…

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Sweden has reinvigorated my love of hiking hugely and it is thanks to a trekking in Fjallbacka, Valo Island (more on that in a few weeks) and The Weather Islands. Not only is the scenery stunning…

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Where you have to play ‘spot the posts’ as wooden posts guide you through rocky terrain, marshes and a woodland that suddenly creeps up on you – being the adventurer again. The wildlife is incredible. I saw seals, Guillemots and lots and lots of toads which live in abundance as there are no predators (bar the occasional gull) on the island, they are honestly everywhere…

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You also couldn’t feel more like you were walking in a Cold Crime novel if you tried…

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There are also a few of my other favourite pastimes on the Weather Islands. There is marvellous swimming, in some of the clearest waters (which in summer get to over 20 degrees) I have ever splashed about in and also the quietest. I had an entire cove just to myself like a private swimming pool, though I have saved you from the horrors of me paddling. There is also an amazing restaurant on the island, part of the Inn, where I had one of the best prawn starters of my life, seriously…

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They also have a bar where guests of the Inn, folks from the summer houses and boats and a few toads can all sit together, chatter, read or just ‘be’ and watch one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen in my life.

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Yes, I had a little weep as I have done before in Tel Aviv and Iceland when the beauty of the world hits you with a wallop (I have also since done this just down the road in Wales which I will share soon) and just leaves you speechless. A blissful place which for me was much more a ‘heaven in the sea’ than a ‘hell on earth’ which is what the folk of the past used to call it. A perfect reading retreat indeed.

Why is it that we go on holidays and schedule in time for reading yet we don’t just go away on a reading retreat? For example we schedule time by the pool or on a lounger on the beach if we are off somewhere hot, or we use the travel time as quality reading time. When I fly to America in a few days I am seeing the almost twenty four hour journey (three flights one long stop in Chicago) there as a day which I can dedicate to reading. (Forgetting the facts that I will have the panic sweats on the plane, possibly get sidetracked by a film or three, or be asleep – the latter being unlikely as I will be in a panic about being 30,000ft up in a tin can, though would be ideal as I have a horrid feeling I might be slightly over tired when I arrive in Asheville.) Should we not just take reading breaks away? If so where have you been that is a perfect reading retreat and where would you love to go?

This post is the fifth and final post in a week of Savidge Reads in Sweden after I was sent by the lovely people at the West Sweden Tourist Board to go on a cold crime adventure.

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Fjallbacka; Where Fact and Fiction Meet (Part II)

So after our first walk through the village of Fjallbacka the other day (which only lead up to lunchtime with much more to discover after) visiting some of the sites from Camilla Lackberg’s series of books I thought in the second instalment I would take you to a place that inspired her. I wanted to say that this is the place inspired the novel yet it might have just inspired the murder that opens it – why quibble though, it was inspiration behind The Preacher in some way.

I am always fascinated by what can inspire an author and so, having been forewarned that it was quite a hike and I should take a bottle of water and a Mendelberg cake, I turned from Ingrid Berman Square (which I shared with you the other day) and headed to the start of Kungsklyftan, which leads you on a walk through and then over the mini-mountain of Vetteberget.

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Now when the lovely Emelie, of the West Sweden Tourist Board, said that all you had to do initially was walk up a few steps I think she might have made a small understatement as the first thing that greeted me after I had turned the corner was these wooden steps which lead you high off up into the wilderness.

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Having climbed those, had a quarter of my bottle of water and a third of my Mendelberg cake (which is a meringue bigger than most average human hands) to keep my fluids and sugar levels up I spotted that the previous steps had been a walk in the park, almost literally, as what lay ahead was stone steps in the most liberal sense of the word.

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Whilst climbing them I felt a real sense of adventure, especially as the walk was pretty much deserted. I was suddenly taken back to my youth when I was sent off ahead on walking holidays to ‘go and find the route’ up a mountain. There is also a wonderful sense of history of the place especially when you come to the level and are greeted by this…

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This is the path that goes over an old fault which was created by an earthquake in the ice age (yes I did wonder both if there might be one right then and what would happen and also if I might fall at any moment into the earths core – not that I am a drama queen at all) and as you can see amazingly three rocks go wedged by the ice and earthquake and all those tectonic shenanigans and have been wedged there ever since (and yes I did briefly worry that they might choose that minute to fall and flatten me) – isn’t it amazing?

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You can certainly see why Camilla Lackberg was haunted/fascinated/inspired by this place to stick a dead body down it, it does make a good place for someone to leave one that is at some point going to be found – as is the plan of the killer in The Preacher. It is a stunning place that at once feels rather out of this world and yet really grounds you to the earth and reminds you that you are on this big huge rock spinning through space. Before that made my head hurt I headed up a much steeper set of wooden steps to the top, and what a view awaited me…

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The whole of Fjallbacka (though this is only the old side as wordpress won’t let me upload panoramic photos) and the Islands that surround it lie before you, beautiful. I spent a wonderful forty minutes just looking at the view (and eating more Mendelberg) before the sun started to set and I knew it was time to head back down and onwards towards dinner.

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As everyone loves a food picture (oh come on you know they do) I thought I would share with you the amazing starter that arrived in the restaurant, which also luckily enough happened to be at my hotel – Stora Hotellet Bryggan which Lackberg used to base Erica’s parents home on in her books – where I got to watch this whilst I devoured more food and a cheeky cider or two.

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I am slightly obsessed with sunsets, I think they are one of the most beautiful natural daily occurrences ever, and this was one of the three up to that point that made me a bit breathless and weepy, you wait till we go to the Weather Islands in the next post though!

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Will all that it was time for this wanderer and adventurer to head to his bed, which aptly is where a sailor is once supposed to have laid his head after his adventures at sea and also aptly has a Victorian feel which is my favourite era, before more adventures (and several boat trips) awaited him next…

This post is the fourth post in a week of Savidge Reads in Sweden after I was sent by the lovely people at the West Sweden Tourist Board to go on a cold crime adventure.

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The Preacher – Camilla Lackberg

It is unusual for me to review two novels by the same author in succession but then it unusual for me to read several novels by the same author in quick succession. Or having, as some of you may like to call it, a binge read. However this is what I did with Camilla Lekberg’s first three novels whilst I was in the place that they were set, the stunning village of Fjallbacka. Having enjoyed The Ice Princess I was looking forward to The Preacher, I didn’t realise that in many ways they would be polar opposites of each other…

Harper Books, paperback, 2009, fiction, 432 pages, bought by my good self

When a young boy goes out to play one morning in Fjallbacka and discovers the body of a girl, Detective Patrik Hedstrom is called to investigate a murder cutting short his summer holiday at home with wife Erica. However things get more complicated, and Patrik’s holiday is cut short, when they discover a further two skeletons have been left under the body of the recent victim. Could these be the bodies of two girls who mysteriously disappeared back in the 1970’s which became linked to the Hult family? If so does that mean that they may have had the wrong man down for murder or that a member of the Hult family has been biding their time? Or do they have a new killer who is copying the murders of the 1970’s? As another girl goes missing, a killer needs to be uncovered quickly.

As I mentioned above The Preacher interestingly is like a polar opposite of The Ice Princess. Here I should note that I don’t mean that it is a bad novel as I enjoyed the first, I enjoyed this one equally. However Lackberg seems to have turned everything on its head for her second novel. First of all there is the fact that we were previously in Fjallbacka in the depths of winter, the snow was thick on the ground adding a cold and icy edge to the book. This time however we are in the dead heat of summer. Fjallbacka is sweltering, much to the Erica’s dismay as she is eight months pregnant, yet this cleverly brings the tense balmy heat which can be just as hard to deal with as the severe cold and seems to bring out the madness in people.

The second, and probably biggest, change is that our focus has completely switched from Erica to Patrik. In The Ice Princess we followed Erica as she tried to find out the mysteries behind her friend Alex’s death as an amateur investigator with a personal link to it all. In The Preacher we have a novel that is much more of a police procedural as we follow Patrik and his team and their investigation.

He began writing down notes about how he was going to handle the investigation into the Tanja case.  First, contact the German police authorities, which he had been about to do when he was interrupted by the call from Tord Pedersen. Then he had to talk with Liese again, and finally he thought he’d get Gosta to drive out to the campground with him and ask around. See whether Tanja might have spoken to anyone there. Or perhaps it would be better to ask Patrik to assign that task to Gosta. In this investigation Patrik, not Martin, had the authority to give orders to Gosta. And things had a tendency to go much more smoothly if protocol was followed to the letter.

This adds two new dynamics though as we get a new cast of characters, like the brilliant Annika who keeps it all together and the more complex Martin and Gosta. We also get a detective who has a happy home life which is unusual in the genre, they are normally angry drunks in their spare time. It also adds some light relief and comedy into the mix as Erica and Patrik keep getting deluged by unwanted guests who make themselves less and less welcome.

These light moments are needed as The Preacher is a very dark book. Without giving away any spoilers the Hult family have many secrets in their past and are not a happy bunch and the more we are given insight into their family life the darker things can get. We also have a continuation of the story of Erica’s sister, Anna, who has left her aggressive bullying husband and is now in a new relationship, but will this be any better? There is also of course the murders at the heart of the novel the mystery of them and also as importantly the emotions they bring up. Lackberg looks at how people are affected by the present murder and also that of a cold case, how does it affect those who have never been able to say a proper farewell when that final farewell comes?

She also throws in a rather brilliant and thought provoking strand as another girl goes missing. We follow the story of Jenny’s parents after her disappearance and as they have to wait to see if she will be discovered alive or be the latest victim of a cruel and torturing killer. This adds a real poignancy to The Preacher and really takes us into the lives of a family who are being torn apart by someone else’s cruelty. It is a side that we don’t always see in thrillers and gives both Lackberg and The Preacher a certain edge in the genre.

Seventeen years flickered quickly past like in some sort of internal film. Kerstin felt the weight of Jenny’s little new born body in her arms. Unconsciously she formed her arms into a cradle. The baby grew and after a while everything seemed to go so fast. Much too fast. Why had they spent so much of their precious time bickering and squabbling? If only she had known what was going to happen, she wouldn’t have said a single mean word to Jenny. Sitting at the table with a hole in her heart, she swore that if everything ended well, she would never raise her voice to her daughter again.

All in all the second in Lackberg’s series is a smart police procedural that delivers on dark thrills as it does on an emotional level. I also liked the ending, which does do what you might think – always a clever move. Lackberg is building a great cast of characters in a wonderful setting that I want to get to know better and follow further. I am hoping we get a little bit more Erica as we continue the series as I warmed to her so much in the first. Either way, I am looking forward to returning to Fjallbacka again.

This post is the third in a week of Savidge Reads in Sweden after I was sent by the lovely people at the West Sweden Tourist Board to go on a cold crime adventure.

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Fjallbacka; Where Fact and Fiction Meet (Part I)

If you are a big fan of the novels of Camilla Lackberg (and let’s be honest there are several million of those) then you may have pondered about, or even dreamed of going to, Fjallbacka which is her home town and also the setting of her crime series. Well, lucky you because having been on a trip there a few weeks ago I thought I would share a trip (or in fact two) around the village. If you haven’t read any of Camilla Lackberg’s books then you might want to try starting at the beginning of the series and in the meantime just enjoy the lovely pictures!!

When I arrived in Fjallbacka, having just had time to pop my luggage in my room and freshen up after a plane a train and a coach, I was met in the reception by the lovely Asa who both runs the Tourist Information on the waterfront and who also gives tours of the village and the murder sites which feature in Lackberg’s books. Now I am slightly fearful that I will miss out many of the facts of the villages history because Asa knows so many fascinating stories that to be frank you need to travel there and here them directly from her. But I will give you some snippets.

We started from the top of a snow free Fjallbacka, after I learnt how one of the townsmen had created the cardboard cartons that transport liquids – no lie, and what is amazing is when you arrive in the village you come from the back and so you are greeted with an unassuming, yet quaint, image of a small Swedish village. Go to the top of the hill near the church and the whole vista suddenly opens up in front of you and it is stunning…

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In the distance you might just be able to make out the diving board where one of the crimes in a later Lackberg novel begins as a man sits in this very spot of a morning and spots it! Here is of course where the church is which rises above the village and can be seen from virtually any street/house you walk into.

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The church is relatively new (though over a hundred years old) to the area as in times of old people would have to travel a further six miles, not that many people lived in Fjallbacka preferring the islands until the herring boom in the 1800’s. When the church was added, after the land was donated to the villagers for free, it was decided that it should be something special yet something in keeping with traditional churches. How did they do this? Well if you look at the picture above you will see that not only is the granite its made from several colours it is all sorts of shapes making it like a puzzle not your normal structure. It is very beautiful and inside it simply (and simplistically) breathtakingly beautiful…

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Those of you who have read the books will know that the church features a lot in the books, though not quite as much as the graveyard does, ha! If you have seen the TV adaptations you will be thinking I am a liar because they used another church as this one was deemed to bright. I loved the brightness though, I could have spent ages in there but Asa had some much more to show me as we wandered through the winding streets, including Lackberg’s very own fishing cabin which is staying a secret with me. The houses in the village are beautiful all having to be built to a specific traditional design to make sure it is in keeping. Don’t they just instantly conjure ‘cold crime’?

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As we wandered through the streets we also caught more of the spots from Lackberg’s books. I haven’t gotten this far in the series yet but this, sadly now closed and run down, hotel becomes a spa in one book…

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To me it looks more like it should be a house come book shop, doesn’t it to you? If any has a spare few million do please let me kow as I would simply adore to take it on. Anyway, we also saw the factory where the very rich and very naughty family from The Ice Princess is based on, but I can’t share all these sites with you as you won’t go! Now diverting from Lackberg a little, one of the places that you simply HAVE to go and visit and cant really miss is Setterlinds Bakery (it does get a mention in the books) which was non other than Ingrid Bergman’s favourite bakery where she got her favourite cake (I was reliably informed by Emelie from West Sweden Tourist Board) Mendelberg which I will report on later in the week…

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Ingrid Bergman actually moved to one of the islands just off the coast of Fjallbacka, following one of her marriages, to escape the glare at the height of her Hollywood fame. Initially, as you might imagine, this caused quite a stir upon her arrival not just because of her fame but also her occasionally hedonistic lifestyle which wasn’t in keeping with morals of the time. Soon enough though it was like she had never not lived there to the point that the town, without the council knowing when they did it, added Ingrid Bergman square after her death and indeed it is one of the focal points and most popular meeting place in the town.

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From here you can take a walk up Kungsklyftan, which we will do later in the week as a) we haven’t finished the tour yet b) it features in the opening of The Preacher which I will be discussing tomorrow and is so stunning it needs a whole post of its own, or you can take in the marina…

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…Which is what I did. Take a walk along and around the old town and  head out into one of the jetties and you get a whole new view of the village facing it straight on, again showing you how utterly beautiful it is. Can you tell I was smitten and already wondering if I could hide in a fishermans hut all of my own for a summer?

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After all that walking, and having said goodbye to the delightful Asa (who very kindly gave me a lift after I had been on the Weather Islands – you won’t believe your eyes – back to the train station and who I might be plotting doing something literary in Fjallbacka with) I realised I was starving. Whilst I should could have simply run back to Setterlind’s and bought the shop, I decided to try the recommended (by Asa) local fish store…

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…You might think this doesn’t look like an ideal luncheon stop, secretly round the back though is a seafront restaurant which only serves possibly the best fish and chips that I have ever had – coming from a Northern Englishman that is high praise indeed!

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Sitting watching the boats and the people and the waves, eating freshly caught fish goujons and just embracing the peace and quite and the fresh air was pure heaven, and the perfect break before I headed off up Kungsklyftan which we will head to on Thursday. It is honestly beautiful. Until then, who else has been to Fjallbacka? And which other places and settings from books have you been to and were they as you expected.

This post is the second in a week of Savidge Reads in Sweden after I was sent by the lovely people at the West Sweden Tourist Board to go on a cold crime adventure.

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The Ice Princess – Camilla Lackberg

In preparation for my trip to Sweden I thought that it was time for me to read some Camilla Lackberg, especially as in essence Camilla was the reason that I was being sent off to her homeland of Fjallbacka by the lovely people at West Sweden tourism. Well believe you me I had many an offer to lend me a copy of The Ice Princess (you have to start at the beginning of a series don’t you?) because it turned out Camilla has a lot of fans in my office, which shouldn’t be a surprise as she has sold over 9,000,000 copies of her books. I have always meant to read her novels, partly because people like Gav have raved so much about her, yet been hesitant to start a new series of crime novels (as I think I am addicted to about five already, aren’t we all?) Fortunately Lackberg’s novels do stand out from the crowd…

Harper Books, paperback, 2008, fiction, 400 pages, borrowed from my mate Barb

Upon her return to her hometown following the death of her parents, Erica Falck begins to feel that death and tragedy might be following her when her childhood friend Alex is found dead in the bath with her wrists slashed. Erica and Alex’s friendship had however waned after Alex suddenly stopped speaking to her before leaving in her pre-teens. The bonds have not been forgotten by Alex’s parents who, as Erica is a semi-successful writer of biographies and has become a small celebrity in Fjallbacka, ask her to write about their daughter.

In doing so Erica starts to discover that the perfect life Alex had created wasn’t all that she made people believe and that there were many secrets in her past. It soon dawns on Erica that Alex may not have committed suicide at all, but who would want to kill her? Subsequently local detective in charge of the case Patrik Hedstrom is coming to the same conclusion and it looks like something from Alex’s past has returned to haunt her, but what and why?

It was eerie stepping into the shadowy house. Her fear of the dark made it hard for her to breathe, and she forced herself to take some deep breaths to calm her nerves. She thankfully remembered the torch in her coat pocket and said a silent prayer that the batteries were good. They were. The light from the torch made her feel a bit calmer.

You might be thinking this sounds very like a lot of other thrillers, be they cold crime or not, out there however Lackberg does several things that make this different. Firstly she invests heavily in her characters, Erica and Patrik come fully formed off the page foibles and all. Erica is restless with a longing for her homeland yet a desire to escape it and a small yearning to settle down despite herself, there is also the complicated relationship with her sister who she has become slightly estranged from due to her violent abusive husband. Patrik too is at a cross roads in his life after a failed marriage but guess what, he is actually a decent guy – no signs of being a bastard in the office or having a drink problem insight, which we see so often in this genre.

It would be true to say that The Ice Princess is not a thriller which has a plot which whizzes you into a page turning frenzy, yet we don’t always want that do we? It has a slower pace and uses other ways to grip the reader. After all there are other things that keep you reading on as the plot slowly twists and turns when more is brought to light about Alex and the mysteries surrounding both her life and death. The biggest being the town of Fjallbacka, where the mystery is set, and the people who inhabit it – obviously the fictional ones.

As we learn more about the village Fjallbacka itself becomes one of the main characters as Lackberg slowly builds its streets and its people, and the cast of peripheral characters and their stories within the stories are marvellous. Characters such as the lonely old woman who collects Santa’s and shows them off in her house so children come to visit her or a man so caught up in OCD that he dare not leave the house add to the layers of the setting and the book itself. These also add layers in terms of themes for the book be it loneliness, people stuck in unhappy marriages, grief and in the case of Erica’s sister the very big theme of domestic violence which often is harder to read than the murders as they start to rise.

Lackberg also throws the love story between Erica and Patrik into The Ice Princess. Now before I get accused of spoilers we learn very swiftly that Patrik and Erica know each other from their youths and he had a mammoth crush on her, so its hinted at from the off. I was really worried as I was thinking it was going to be really saccharine, in fact it is wonderfully developed and adds lightness to the book which does get darker and darker. If that wasn’t enough there is more. As someone who loves books and reading about them or the writing process there is also an interesting theme in The Ice Princess as Erica goes from writing her biographies to writing what might be her first novel. As the book continues we almost follow an author fictionally writing about writing, which gives the book another dynamic in a way.

At first, when she’d thought that Alex’s death was suicide, she’d considered writing a book to answer the question ‘why?’ It would have been more of a biography. Now the material was increasingly taking the shape of a crime novel, a genre to which she’d never felt particularly attracted. It was people – their relationships and psychological motivations – that she was interested in; she thought that was something most crime novels had to give up in favour of bloody murders and cold shivers running down the spine.

So all in all if you like your crime thrillers to be more than just twist after twist after page turning twist then I would recommend you give The Ice Princess a whirl. It is one of those crime novels that not only has a mystery, and indeed a rather grim and horrendous one, at its heart but also looks at the way a murder affects the characters and the place around it with multiple layers and facets. It seems I might have a new crime series to regularly dip in and out of.

In truth I have already read the first three, more on those soon, and if that wasn’t enough in my next post I will be taking you on a tour of the town of Fjallbacka and some of its murder sites. I really do spoil you rotten don’t I? In the meantime though who else had read The Ice Princess and Lackberg’s series and what have you made of them?

This post is the first in a week of Savidge Reads in Sweden after I was sent by the lovely people at the West Sweden Tourist Board to go on a cold crime adventure.

 

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Trespass – Rose Tremain

And so to the first of the books that I (and fingers crossed hopefully a lot of you) are reading for Trespassing With Tremain, a way of me remembering my book loving Gran and in a strange way reading along with her through another of her favourite authors and one who she was always telling me I really should have read. Why start with Trespass? Well, it was the book of Rose Tremain’s that Gran kept saying that I simply had to read as she thought it was the most me, which as you will see I found rather interesting after finally having read it…

Vintage Books, hardback, 2010, fiction, 272 pages, inherited from Granny Savidge

Trespass is one of those infinitely clever novels that pleases, perplexes and plays with its reader. As it opens we follow a young, rather spoilt, girl Melodie who is struggling to fit in at her knew school and so on a trip out runs away into the countryside where she discovers something horrendous amongst the tranquillity. What she has discovered we have no idea because we are swiftly taken away from this moment into the lives of two pairs of siblings, soon beginning to realise that in some way one or both of these siblings have something to do with whatever it is that poor Melodie discovers, but what and how?

From the beginning of Trespass I have to say I was hooked in with the mystery and the promise of darkness yet of course a book has to deliver far more than just those two things to really stand out and Trespass does that in spades. The mystery is very much at the fore and then gets sent brooding in the background awaiting its moment as we then get caught up in the worlds of two siblings. Firstly Audrun Lunel, who lives alone in a isolated in the woodlands in a ramshackle bungalow on the edges of her old family home Mas Lunel, now inhabited by her alcoholic brother Aramon. Secondly Anthony Verey, a man once famous for his antique dealings but who has fallen on harder times and is looking to escape his life in London and so heads to the south of France and his sister Veronica.

Of course as Trespass goes on you wonder how on earth these two pairs of siblings will become entwined in something that we know will end darkly. It isn’t until we discover that Aramon is keen to sell off Mas Lunel, much to Audrun’s horror, and Anthony is very much looking for somewhere to live that these people’s lives entwine for a moment. Even then Tremain cleverly keeps us guessing as to what will come because what I thought was going to happen didn’t, in fact the book kept twisting tighter and tighter as it went on.  I don’t want to give too much away though, suffice to say I had to read it in one sitting because I wanted to know what the heck was going to happen, to whom and how.

Episodes, the doctor called them. Short episodes of the brain. And the doctor – or doctors, for it wasn’t always the same one – gave her pills and she took them. She lay in her bed, swallowing pills. She put them on her tongue, like a Communion wafer. She tried to imagine herself transfigured by them. She lay in the Cevenol night, listening to the scoop-owl, to the breathing of the land, trying to envisage a chemical river in her blood. She saw this river as a marbled swirl of purple, crimson and white; the colours drifted in skeins, expanded into almost-recognisable shapes, like clouds. Sometimes, she wondered whether these envisagings were inappropriate. She’d also been told that her mind was liable to ‘inappropriate ideas’. It could imagine terrible things.

As Trespass unravels Tremain does something that l love, she makes the characters and their histories and relationships unravel with it. Yet with the two sets of siblings Tremain makes this all the more heightened. As Anthony flees to Veronica we watch a pair of siblings where one has always looked out for the other, V being the big protective sister. Yet once in the same space this relationship becomes cloying, particularly for V’s lover (the brilliantly named) Kitty Meadows who has never liked Anthony and has always vied for V’s attention with. Does familial love always beat passionate love, can you compete with someone who has been in your lovers life infinitely?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the selling of Mas Lunel is the final straw in Audrun and Aramon’s strained relationship. The siblings have not been close for years despite the fact that Audrun lives on the edge of the land of Mas Lunel, she only goes into her old family home if she absolutely must. What is it that keeps her away and why can two siblings who live so close be so utterly apart? The dynamics and mysteries within the mystery unravel slowly but surely, making the novel only the darker and the characters all the more compelling.

What also makes Trespass compelling are the themes it looks at. Most obviously is the theme of sibling relationships, which brings in family histories and secrets which are always a fertile ground for a novel. There is also the theme of sexuality with both Veronica and her ‘friend’ Kitty but also Arthur and his certain secret proclivity. There is also the sense of trespassing you might think that sounds rather obvious yet Tremain looks at this in many ways. Trespassing on the boundaries of land or personal space, trespassing on relationships, trespassing on other countries and their heritage with the theme of rich Europeans buying French land meaning locals can’t. I could go on. At its heart though, both with the siblings secrets and Melodie (don’t forget about her), there is the theme of how the things we witness or experience as children affect us in later life.

In all this darkness there is a wicked sense of humour which makes it all the more delightfully gothic in its tone. There is the same darkness in Tremain’s humour which offers some light(er) relief in parts both in some of the peripheral characters and their set pieces, like Lloyd Palmer and his accidental pant wetting when laughing which made me giggle very loudly. You will also often find yourself often smiling wryly as Tremain gets her characters to do something we all wish we would do and never dare.

Out of her kitchen window, she watched him toiling in the afternoon heat. Sun rays bounced off his bald head. He was a small man, but full of petty cruelty, she could tell, proud of his ability to wound. Audrun crumbled some black earth from the geranium pot on her kitchen window sill and threw it in with the ground coffee because she knew this could have the power to quell her anxiety, to watch the surveyor imbibing geranium compost and never knowing it.

Trespass is an utterly marvellous novel. One that I don’t really feel I could do full justice without writing something almost as long as the book itself – which I should add manages all the above in just over 250 pages. It is a beautifully written and intricately crafted gothic tale, which has a slight evocation of a fairy tale in some ways, and also the pace and mystery of a thriller. I cannot wait to read more of Tremain’s work.

So you see it seems Gran was right, Trespass is indeed a very ‘me’ book. I am only cross that I didn’t listen to her a few years ago and read it with her at the time as we could have had a real natter about it, and about why she would pair me with such a dark twisty book? It has also broken the spell of being unable to write a review, which has been a bit of a black cloud over me of late. Anyway, who else has read Trespass and what did you make of it? Had you read Tremain before, if so how does this compare and if not what did you think of this as a first foray? I am very much looking forward to The Road Home, which just happens to be the next Trespassing with Tremain title, as I think I might become quite the Tremain fan!

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Filed under Books of 2014, Review, Rose Tremain, Trespassing with Tremain, Vintage Books