Review: The Lighthouse Keeper (Fyrvaktaren in the original version) by Camilla Läckberg

I had wanted to read something written by Camilla Läckberg for some time and finally I found one of her novels in the sales – as I needed some entertainment in hospital I decided this one would do ; p – it is always good to know that some people have it worse than you. To my utter surprise afterwards I found out there is no English translation available yet – even on all I could find was an audiobook in…Danish. Go figure. Still there are novels by Läckberg published in English and other languages as well so I decided to write a review anyway – you can get a taste of her style and then you might want to read her other books. Or not. 

Book info:
Form: paperback, 494 pages
Target audience: adults
Genre: crime mystery

Synopsis (from the site of the author )

 Police inspector Patrik Hedström has just returned to work after a lengthy sick leave. He has tried to have a good rest, while also looking after his wife Erica and their prematurely born twins. He barely has time to step inside the office before he is thrown into a new investigation. A man has been found murdered in his flat, shot through the back of his head. The victim is Mats Sverin, the local council’s financial director, a thoroughly friendly and well-liked person. Nobody has a bad word to say about him. Together with his colleagues, Patrik begins to map out Mats’s entire life, which contains more secrets than anyone could ever have suspected. 

Why was he in such a rush to leave Gothenburg to return to his home town of Fjällbacka? What part did he play in the project involving the old bath hotel being transformed into a spa? And is it pure coincidence that Mats’s childhood sweetheart Annie has also returned? They have not been in touch for several years, but now she and her son are living on the island of Gråskär outside of Fjällbacka – a place where her family has resided for generations. Even Gråskär has its share of secrets and is a place that has always been surrounded by sinister rumours. They say that the island is haunted by the dead and that they have something to tell the living…

 What I liked: 

 First of all Ms Läckberg mixes one storyline from the past with a few from the present. The storyline from the past takes place on a small, isolated island called Gråskär not far from Fjällbacka. According to the legend people who die on that tiny island with a lighthouse never really leave it. Plenty of characters will have to (or will want to) visit Gråskär during the narration – who will stay there forever?

 I liked the past storyline even better than the present ones – it had a great atmosphere of doom and gloom, with a dash of supernatural perfectly balanced with the harsh reality. The failed marriage of Emelie was such a great illustration of the famous saying: ‘be careful what you wish for…’ Its ending was something that left me a bit puzzled but, taking everything into account, perhaps it wasn’t such a strange outcome. I’m not sure how long I would suffer such a treatment Emelie got from her husband (24 hours? less?), small wonder she went…mad (?).

Of course you might argue that those were different times ( and you would be perfectly right – 19th century, no laughing matter when it comes to women’s independence) but Lackberg shows in her book that even nowadays a lot of women feel they have to put up with abuse and violence no matter what. The criminal mystery happening in the present times was skillfully executed but I liked the most these everyday life details the author added to her narration here and there. They made the novel somehow more scary than any amount of gore or violence. One thing is sure: the author knows how to describe loneliness, despair and a sense of loss. Sometimes some tiny things like a cup of freshly brewed coffee who is left untouched because there was nobody to drink it sent real shivers down my spine. Overall the book ended in a really heartrending way.

 Finally I appreciated the occasional humorous remarks, especially when the author zinged her own partner (but in a very sympathetic way)! The translator provided enough info in the footnotes to make it understandable even for foreign readers – thank you very much, dear translator!

The cover is great. I love the colours.

 What I didn’t like: 

 Female characters; almost all of them (maybe apart from Viviane but she is not the main lead so we meet her just from time to time) were presented as victims who need rescuing, not survivors most women really are. It sounded a bit anachronistic. Also this book is not for people who want to improve their mood reading something cheerful and sweet. Like in real life a lot of bad things happen here sometimes without any reason – innocent people get murdered, different villains get away with their ugly deeds and children die prematurely in a car accident. If you are ok with such a bleak/realistic outlook, your inner Goth/pessimist will feel satisfied with this story. Just prepare some chocolate and one of these fluffy, cheesy, pinkish romances with improbable HEAs beforehand in case you feel overwhelmed by a bout of depression.

 Final verdict: 

A very nice, original crime mystery with some paranormal/psychological elements (but without vampires or werewolves) that enriches the whole whodunit aspect. If you feel you daily horror quota haven’t been met lately do read this one.

I would like to thank rameau and Blodeuedd for their help in translating the title from Swedish.

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