Rating: 3.5 stars
At first, I felt as though I should have read the previous six books in the series. Läckberg had the tricky task of acknowledging that her seventh in the Patrik Hedström/Erica Falck series of crime novels might be the first of her books that a reader encounters, while not going over old ground too much for existing fans. For the most part she succeeded but there were moments when I was aware that there were events in previous books that I wasn’t getting full disclosure on, and it felt slightly frustrating.
The Lost Boy is a slow burner, as well. The different strands are gradually woven together in quite short bursts. I was completely new to Läckberg’s style (I’m presuming it’s a style) and I found it too disjointed at first, but as the story progressed and my knowledge increased, I settled into the rhythm. About a quarter of the way in, I found myself wanting to shake one of the detectives for not having paid closer attention to what one of the neighbours of a murdered man said. Just because someone approaches life differently to accepted norms doesn’t mean you should disregard what they tell you. Especially not when you’re a detective in a crime novel, investigating a perplexing homicide. If a cat owner randomly tells you that one of his cats always hisses when she sees a woman, and then randomly tells you that said cat saw a car arrive at an unusual hour and started hissing, odds on it means that the person getting out of the car was a woman. Which narrows the available population of suspects to about half. It took a while for Hedström to pick up on it, too, but eventually he did and it proved to be the key to unlocking the mystery. Gratifyingly, it wasn’t the person I assumed it was.
The twists and turns in the plot kept me guessing. I liked the way completely new characters were introduced quite a way into the story, with no immediate hints about the role they would play. They appear, without introduction, and their stories trickle between the other stories that have already built. It added to the suspense. The book is definitely more suspenseful than action packed. It felt as though I was learning things at the same pace as the police, and fitting the pieces together as they did. Sometimes a slow book feels agonisingly slow, as though you’re wading through treacle to get to the end, and can’t wait for it to finish. I found the slow pace of this book perfect, as it gave time to think, and each new revelation left me wanting to know what would happen next without wishing for the ending to come sooner. As all the strands come together in the last hundred pages, the pace picked up and there was tension aplenty.
I loved the addition of the ghost story that punctuated the crime investigation and gave context to the actions of one of the characters. I worked out what was going on in the ghost story quite quickly, but I’m a worldly inhabitant of the 21st century, not a farm girl from 19th century rural Sweden. I liked Emelie and felt a lot of sympathy for her. If only she’d lived now, instead of then.
Domestic abuse is a theme running through each of the storylines in the book. Läckberg treated it with sensitivity and the pace of the revelations seemed to match how abusive relationships can unfold – gradually, with building fear. There was violence in the book, but it was the things hinted at that had the greater impact on me as a reader.
I’ve been meaning to read some Camilla Läckberg for a while, but I’ve been reluctant to take on another series, given my habit of becoming obsessed with reading everything in a series. Receiving this book as my first Willoughby Book Club read gave me the chance to try her out. I enjoyed it enough to add her other books to my library saved list, and I will definitely read more – starting at the beginning!