Book Review: The Drowning by Camilla Läckberg

The Drowning by Camilla LackbergAnonymous letters.  A mysterious murderess with long black hair.  Four friends with a dark secret in their past.  A small, close community who are intent on getting to the bottom of the ever-stranger turn of events.  What more could you want from a novel?  Perhaps a cast of characters who are all-too real, their interactions and reactions meticulously and sensitively observed?  You’ve got it.

The Drowning is a crime drama with more emphasis on the drama than on the crime.  The tension is expertly built throughout the novel; while not even halfway through I thought that the hidden secrets must surely come pouring out soon, but no, you don’t find out the full story until right at the end.  You might make plenty of guesses as to whodunnit – I certainly did – but I was wrong a couple of times.  I was impatient to find out the true answers, yet strangely glad that it was dragged out because I didn’t want the story to end.

Set in a small Swedish town, the novel follows multiple characters’ perspectives as they all become caught up in the hunt for the murderer.  You’re introduced to a wide cast, none of whom are perfect.  The good guys have their quirks and their flaws, while the ‘villains’ almost all inspire some level of sympathy.  I always enjoy this method of story-telling involving numerous narrators or, in this case where the third person is used, the numerous protagonists.  The reader is placed in the strange position of being party to a multitude of innermost thoughts and feelings, which keeps you one step ahead of most of the characters, and yet the juiciest secrets are withheld, with clues doled out slowly as a reward for continuing to read.

The ending of the novel puzzled me a little; I’m not sure whether I understood what the writer was trying to do.  Oh, the final secret is revealed alright, in a satisfyingly dramatic manner, but it was the following concluding chapters which bothered me.  I do have a theory about what it all meant but I wouldn’t dream of spoiling this fantastic read by revealing any key details here.  Nobody I know has read the book yet as I was sent an ARC (thank you, Waterstones) and other reviewers don’t seem to have experienced my confusion over the unexpected finale, so please, if you read The Drowning, get in touch and let me know your thoughts.

Despite the ending, I loved this book and would thoroughly recommend it.  If I gave a starred rating for books, this one would get five out of five for turning out to be such an entertaining and thought-provoking read.

The Drowning by Camilla Läckberg is published 15th March.  You can buy it from Waterstones here, or you can buy it in hardback or for the Kindle from Amazon.


17 Comments (+add yours?)

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  2. lowrihafcooke
    Mar 30, 2012 @ 20:25:33

    Are you at all familiar with the other books? Every one so far has left us on with a “cliffhanger” involving the female protagonist’s latest family affair. I found this book the most boring of all of Lackberg’s books. Formulaic, safe, and churned out too soon. She follows exactly the same pattern and witholds vital information from the readers (in this case, the content of “The Mermaid’s” main theme and the threatening letters to all) and therefore doesn’t let us readers in on a fair chance of guessing whodunnit- as Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo and Yrsa Sigurdadottir so elequently do. A shame, as I really responded to the first few books in the Erica Flack series of books, but Ms Lackberg has shown herself to be a one trick pony, and a tedious one at that.


    • TheBrontëSister
      Mar 31, 2012 @ 10:48:56

      Thanks for your comment. Actually I wasn’t aware of the series of books when I wrote the review, but funny enough I found out about the existence of the others just a couple of days ago, and was thinking of adding a follow-up comment.

      The fact that there is a series means that the ending of this book makes a lot more sense. It did seem a bit strange. Of course, I can’t possibly judge the whole series, but approaching this book completely fresh I can only state again that I enjoyed reading it. I’m now intrigued to read the first book in the series and make my own mind up, especially as you say that you felt these first novels to be better than this one! But I take your point that a series of similar reads might get a bit monotonous.

      I didn’t actually mind that The Mermaid’s main theme and the content of the letters was withheld – perhaps it could have added a touch more shock factor, but was it really necessary? A threatening letter is a threatening letter, and I almost felt it held more threat not knowing exactly what the content was. It’s like watching a film about a ghost story without actually seeing the ghost, but feeling the terrible potential of its presence – done well it can create greater suspense than feeling let down by the appearance of a man in a costume. I also liked being wrong about whodunnit – I was more shocked by the ending!

      Anyway, thanks again for your comment – it’s great to get a second opinion, especially so if it’s different to mine!


  3. Gillian
    Apr 10, 2012 @ 09:32:58

    I have read all of the books and have enjoyed them. I see Lackberg as a credible writer. I did read this book enthusiastically but I guessed the secrets before the end, comparing it to an infamous film. That said, the end shocked me too but I think it was meant to and it won’t turn out to be what it initially seems! At least, I hope not as I anticipate the next book in the series.


    • TheBrontëSister
      Apr 12, 2012 @ 18:09:07

      I’m looking forward to trying the first book in the series and see how I get on with it. I’ve lent this book to a couple of people now who both loved it. Knowing now that it is actually a series, I think you’re right – there will be more to the ending than meets the eye! Thanks for your comment.


  4. bernadetteinoz
    Apr 14, 2012 @ 12:54:38

    I’m about a quarter of the way through this one and I must admit am finding it a bit…domestic…but I will carry on, thanks in part to your review – sounds like it does get suspenseful and I’m curious about the ending.

    Like your earlier commenter though I have read all the rest of the books and they have become increasingly focused on the day-to-day lives of the recurring characters rather than the solving of crimes. The last one had so many pregnancies I lost count – and now we’ve got more baby talk – I am a wee bit over it all even though I do like the characters and it is nice to see a crime novel where the detective is a happily married non-alcoholic 🙂


    • TheBrontëSister
      Apr 15, 2012 @ 11:20:41

      It definitely gets better as it goes on. It’s interesting to think that my review might have been completely different if I’d started with the first one, or known that it was a series. But I’m glad it’s encouraged you to continue with the book!

      That’s a good point actually – it’s all too commonplace to see a tortured cop who treads that fine line between good and bad, and it’s great to find an alternative, more balanced character (although everyone in the novel still has their faults). Personally, I don’t mind the focus on the drama rather than on the crime, but perhaps I’ll feel differently having read her other books. Thanks for your comment.


  5. Trackback: Review: The Drowning by Camilla Lackberg | Reactions to Reading
  6. Frances
    Jun 02, 2012 @ 02:52:41

    I’ve just finish reading “The Drowning”. I can’t believe the ending!! Is there a sequel yet?


    • TheBrontëSister
      Jun 04, 2012 @ 20:01:17

      I think I read somewhere that the next book is due out next year, so we’ll all have to wait or learn Swedish in the meantime! I’ve got a copy of “The Ice Princess” now so at some point I’ll start reading my way through the series from the beginning.


  7. Trackback: Book Review: The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg « TheBrontëSister
  8. Noris
    Oct 11, 2012 @ 04:31:05

    What happened to Patrik after he got an heart attack? Is there a book that continues the story?


  9. Myrna Diederichsen
    Oct 19, 2012 @ 14:37:05

    The ending of “The Drowning” left me gasping, literally! I can hardly wait for the sequel!!


  10. Cat Brown
    Feb 28, 2013 @ 08:03:10

    Actually the ending outraged me. But I also hadn’t been aware of earlier books so maybe there was a point to the end other than shock value. Otherwise I didn’t think it was fair to readers.


  11. hayley
    Mar 20, 2013 @ 16:10:40

    To turn the page and see ‘Acknowledgements’ well….I actually said ‘what?!’ out loud. Then proceeded to check I hadn’t got the pages stuck together or something. Were the two women in the car that Louise crashed into Erica and Anna? Whats happening with Patrik? So many unanswered questions…….but then I guess thats the point of keeping the sales……so The Drowning 2? Or a seperate title with a few loosely tied up ends in the first chapter? Good read in all, needed more about the crimes involved to really relate to those involved though.


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