The Preacher (Fjällbacka Series #2)

The Preacher (Fjällbacka Series #2)

3.7 36
by Camilla Läckberg

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In the fishing community of Fjällbacka, life is remote, peaceful—and for some, tragically short. Foul play was always suspected in the disappearance twenty years ago of two young holidaymakers in the area. Now a young boy out playing has confirmed this grim truth. Their remains, discovered with those of a fresh victim, send the town into shock. Local


In the fishing community of Fjällbacka, life is remote, peaceful—and for some, tragically short. Foul play was always suspected in the disappearance twenty years ago of two young holidaymakers in the area. Now a young boy out playing has confirmed this grim truth. Their remains, discovered with those of a fresh victim, send the town into shock. Local detective Patrik Hedstrom, expecting a baby with his girlfriend Erica, can only imagine what it is like to lose a child. When a second young girl goes missing, Hedstrom’s attention focuses on the Hults, a feuding clan of misfits, religious fanatics and criminals. The suspect list is long but time is short—which of this family’s dark secrets will provide the vital clue?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Swedish bestseller Läckberg's worthy second thriller set in the coastal town of Fjällbacka (after The Ice Princess) opens with a grim discovery—the naked fresh corpse of Tanja Schmidt, a German tourist, on top of the skeletal remains of two young women, later identified as Mona Thernblad and Siv Lantin. All three were killed in the same way, but as Det. Patrik Hedström and his team soon discover, Mona and Siv went missing in 1979, and Johannes Hult, the prime suspect in their disappearances, is long dead. The reason for a sadistic killer's reappearance may be hidden among the many secrets and conflicts of a local clan of religious eccentrics. The troubled Hults, from conniving founder (known as the Preacher) to philandering spouses, show a Ross Macdonaldesque love of twisted family relationships, while Läckberg's colorful, diverse police force, staffed with the competent, the incompetent, and the merely distracted, recalls the humanist touch of Dutch author Janwillem van de Wetering. (May)
“Läckberg weaves a solid thriller that will gratify fans of Liza Marklund, Stieg Larsson, and the team of Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom. This fast-paced tale ensures Läckberg’s place on the A-list of Scandinavian crime writers.”
Library Journal
This second mystery featuring detective Patrik Hedstrom (The Ice Princess) is again set in the small Swedish village of Fjällbacka. The story opens with the discovery of the skeletons of two women who disappeared more than 20 years ago, along with a fresh victim killed in a similar manner. In researching the decades-old murders, the police are led to the dysfunctional family of a religious fanatic, Ephraim Hult, who was known as a preacher and healer. Hedstrom must find the key to connect the old crimes with the new. In addition, Patrik's girlfriend, Erica, is about to give birth, and he must come to terms with his feelings about becoming a father. Erica, in turn, is deeply troubled by her sister's increasingly serious marriage problems. Läckberg's many-layered story features plot twists and turns galore. Especially effective are her flashbacks, which connect the stories of the women from 1979 to the current investigation. Patrik and Erica continue to evolve, leading readers to become increasingly involved in their lives. VERDICT Stieg Larsson fans seeking more Nordic crime fiction may want to try Sweden's top-selling crime writer. Läckberg is also highly recommended for readers who like mysteries set in foreign countries.—Jean King, West Hempstead P.L., NY
Kirkus Reviews

More nasty Baltic hijinks from Swedish mysterian Läckberg (The Ice Princess, 2010, etc.), one of several heirs apparent to Stieg Larsson.

If you think that a bicycle trip into the Swedish woods is a pleasant way to take a vacation, you'd certainly almost always be right. It's just that statistical blip that'll get you, and then, like the victims of an unknown killer in the precincts of the hick town of Fjallbacka, you wind up dead. Like Larsson, Läckberg delights in peeling the scrubbed white pine veneer off Swedish society and showing the wormy nastiness that lies beneath it. She acquaints us at the outset with a pair of hillbilly rednecks—yes, Sweden has them—who live like fat and happy parasites on vacationers from the big city, the matriarch of the family a former beauty who has now become morbidly obese and sharp-tongued. The two seem an ideal clutch to dig up a few skeletons and drape freshly dead young women atop them for entertainments too foul to tell, but then that wouldn't be much of a story, not when there are fatter fish to fry still, among them members of a weird religious sect and their outwardly respectable leader. Well, any reader of mysteries knows that behind every respectable Bible-thumper lies a psycho, but also that behind every red-letter Bible lies a red herring. Caught up in all the brouhaha is police detective Patrik Hedstrom, who has been looking forward to family-values time with pregnant girlfriend Erica but who is now eaten up, in patented Swedish angst worthy of a Bergman flick, by the thought of a world in which terrible things happen to nice people. But is all that nastiness really enough to make Hedstrom talk like Barney Fife ("The whole Hult family feels like a hornets' nest,"nudge, nudge)? It's enough to make the reader suspect that the translator is hatching plots of his own, though it could be that Patrik really is a stiff among stiffs, if not a sheep among religious crazoids.

An adequate thriller, though without Larsson's deft touches; sure to please church-hating readers of the Hitchens-Dawkins set.

Washington Post
“Läckberg’s many-layered story features plot twists and turns galore. Especially effective are her flashbacks . . . Highly recommended for readers who like mysteries set in foreign countries.”
Library Journal
“[Läckberg] is an expert at mixing scenes of domestic cosiness with blood-curdling horror! A must for white-knuckle junkies.”
The Bookwatch
“Fans of Stieg Larsson novels hungry for brooding explorations of the dark side of Swedish society will find much to appreciate in Läckberg’s second mystery, following The Ice Princess. . . . [Narrator David] Thorn’s gravelly baritone underlines the brutal murders and ominous undercurrents, fueled by dark family secrets.”
Irish Independent
“A welcome addition to the swelling ranks of Scandinavian crime writers! A good, solid read.”
Irish Independent
From the Publisher
“A clever plot and in-depth characterization aren’t the only qualities that elevate The Preacher above most other thrillers. . . .The Preacher can go up against the Larsson books head-on when it comes to narrative drive and skillful exploration of family secrets.”
Washington Post

“Springs to life in audio.”
The Bookwatch

Product Details

Publication date:
Fjällbacka Series , #2
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Preacher

  • The day was off to a promising start. He woke up early, before the rest of the family, put on his clothes as quietly as possible and managed to sneak out unnoticed. He took along his knight’s helmet and wooden sword, which he swung happily as he ran the hundred yards from the house down to the mouth of the King’s Cleft. He stopped for a moment and peered in awe into the sheer crevice through the rocky outcrop. The sides of the rock were six or seven feet apart, and it towered up over thirty feet into the sky, into which the summer sun had just begun to climb. Three huge boulders were solidly wedged in the middle of the cleft, and it was an imposing sight. The place held a magical attraction for a six-year-old. The fact that the King’s Cleft was forbidden ground made it all the more tempting.

    The name had originated from King Oscar II’s visit to Fjällbacka in the late nineteenth century, but that was something he neither knew nor cared about as he slowly crept into the shadows, with his sword ready to attack. His father had told him that the scenes from Hell’s Gap in the film Ronja Rövardotter had been filmed inside the King’s Cleft. When he had watched the film himself, he felt a little tickle in his stomach as he saw the robber chieftain Mattis ride through. Sometimes he played highwaymen here, but today he was a knight. A knight of the Round Table, like in the big, fancy colored book that his grandmother had given him for his birthday.

    He crept over the boulders that covered the ground and made ready to attack the great fire-breathing dragon with his courage and his sword. The summer sun did not reach down into the cleft, which made it a cold, dark place. Perfect for dragons. Soon he would make the blood spurt from its throat, and after prolonged death throes it would fall dead at his feet.

    Out of the corner of his eye he saw something that caught his attention. He glimpsed a piece of red cloth behind a boulder, and curiosity got the better of him. The dragon could wait; maybe there was treasure hidden there. He jumped up on the rock and looked down the other side. For a moment he almost fell over backward, but after wobbling and flailing his arms around he regained his balance. Later, he would not admit that he was scared, but just then, at that instant, he had never been more terrified in all six years of his life. A lady was lying in wait for him. She was on her back, staring straight up at him with her eyes wide. His first instinct was to flee before she caught him playing here when he wasn’t supposed to be. Maybe she would force him to tell her where he lived and then drag him home to Mamma and Pappa. They would be so furious, and they were sure to ask, how many times have we told you that you mustn’t go to the King’s Cleft without a grown-up?

    But the odd thing was that the lady didn’t move. She didn’t have any clothes on either, and for an instant he was embarrassed that he was standing there looking at a naked lady. The red he had seen was not a piece of cloth but something wet right next to her, and he couldn’t see her clothes anywhere. Funny, lying there naked. Especially when it was so cold.

    Then something impossible occurred to him. What if the lady was dead? He couldn’t work out any other explanation for why she was lying so still. The realization made him jump down from the rock, and he slowly backed toward the mouth of the cleft. After putting a few yards between himself and the dead lady, he turned around and ran home as fast as he could. He no longer cared if he was scolded or not.

    *   *   *

    Sweat made the sheet stick to her body. Erica tossed and turned in bed, but it was impossible to find a comfortable position. The bright summer night didn’t make it any easier to sleep, and for the thousandth time she made a mental note to buy some blackout curtains to hang up, or rather persuade Patrik to do it.

    It drove her crazy that he could sleep so contentedly next to her. How dare he lie there snoring when she lay awake night after night? She gave him a little poke in the hope that he’d wake up. He didn’t budge. She poked a little harder. He grunted, pulled the covers up and turned his back to her.

    With a sigh, she lay on her back with her arms crossed over her breasts and stared at the ceiling. Her belly arched into the air like a big globe, and she tried to imagine her baby swimming inside of her in the dark. Maybe with his thumb in his mouth. Although it was all still too unreal for her to be able to picture it. She was in her eighth month but still couldn’t grasp the fact that she had another life inside her. Well, pretty soon it was going to be very real. Erica was torn between longing and dread. It was difficult to see beyond the childbirth. To be honest, right now it was hard to see beyond the problem of no longer being able to sleep on her stomach. She looked at the luminous dial of the alarm clock. 4:42 a.m. Maybe she should turn on the light and read for a while instead.

    Three and a half hours and one bad detective novel later, she was about to roll out of bed when the telephone rang shrilly. As usual she handed the receiver to Patrik.

    “Hello, this is Patrik.” His voice was thick with sleep. “Okay, all right. Oh shit, yeah, I can be there in fifteen minutes. See you there.”

    He turned to Erica. “We’ve got an emergency. I’ve got to run.”

    “But you’re on vacation. Can’t one of the others take it?” She could hear that her voice sounded whiny, but lying awake all night hadn’t done much for her mood.

    “It’s a murder. Mellberg wants me to come along. He’s going out there himself.”

    “A murder? Where?”

    “Here in Fjällbacka. A little boy found a woman’s body in the King’s Cleft this morning.”

    Patrik threw on his clothes, which didn’t take long since it was the middle of July and he only needed light summer clothes. Before he rushed out the door he climbed onto the bed and kissed Erica on the belly, somewhere near where she vaguely recalled she once had a navel.

    “See you later, baby. Be nice to Mamma, and I’ll be home soon.”

    He kissed her quickly on the cheek and hurried off. With a sigh Erica hoisted herself out of bed and put on one of those tentlike dresses that for the time being were the only things that fit her. Against her better judgment she had read lots of baby books, and in her opinion everyone who wrote about the joyful experience of pregnancy ought to be taken out in the public square and horsewhipped. Insomnia, sore joints, stretch marks, hemorrhoids, night sweats and a general hormonal upheaval—that was closer to the truth. And she sure as hell wasn’t glowing with any inner radiance. Erica muttered to herself as she slowly made her way downstairs in pursuit of the day’s first cup of coffee. Maybe that would lift the fog a bit.

    By the time Patrik arrived, a feverish amount of activity was already under way. The mouth of the King’s Cleft had been cordoned off with yellow tape, and he counted three police cars and an ambulance. The techs from Uddevalla were busy with their work and he knew better than to walk right into the crime scene. That was a rookie mistake, which didn’t prevent his boss, Superintendent Mellberg, from stomping around among them. They looked in dismay at his shoes and clothing, which at that very moment were adding thousands of fibers and particles to their sensitive workplace. When Patrik stopped outside the tape and motioned to his boss, Mellberg climbed back over the cordon, to the great relief of Forensics.

    “Hello, Hedström,” said the superintendent.

    His voice was hearty, bordering on joyful, and Patrik was taken aback. For a moment he thought that Mellberg was about to give him a hug but thankfully, this turned out to be wrong. Nevertheless, the man appeared completely changed. It was only a week since Patrik had gone on vacation, but the man before him was really not the same one he’d left sitting sullenly at his desk, muttering that the very concept of vacations ought to be abolished.

    Mellberg eagerly pumped Patrik’s hand and slapped him on the back.

    “So, how’s it going with the brooding hen at home? Any sign that you’re going to be a father soon?”

    “Not for a month and a half, they say.”

    Patrik still had no idea what had brought on such good humor on Mellberg’s part, but he pushed aside his surprise and tried to concentrate on the reason he’d been called to the scene.

    “So what have you found?”

    Mellberg made an effort to wipe the smile off his face and pointed toward the shadowy interior of the cleft.

    “A six-year-old boy sneaked out early this morning while his parents were asleep and came here to play knights among the boulders. Instead he found a dead woman. We got the call at six fifteen.”

    “How long has Forensics had to examine the crime scene?”

    “They arrived an hour ago. The ambulance got here first, and the EMTs were immediately able to confirm that no medical help was needed. Since then they’ve been able to work freely. They’re a bit touchy . . . I just wanted to go in and look around a bit and they were quite rude about it, I must say. Well, I suppose one gets a little anal crawling around looking for fibers with tweezers all day long.”

    Now Patrik recognized his boss again. This was more Mellberg’s sort of tone. But Patrik knew from experience that it was no use trying to alter his opinions. It was easier just to let his remarks go in one ear and out the other.

    “What do we know about her?”

    “Nothing yet. We think she’s around twenty-five. The only item of clothing we found, if you could call it that, was a handbag. Otherwise she was stark naked. Pretty nice tits, actually.”

    Patrik shut his eyes and repeated to himself, like an inner mantra, It won’t be long until he retires. It won’t be long until he retires . . .

    Mellberg went on obliviously. “The cause of death hasn’t been confirmed, but she was beaten severely. Bruises all over her body and a number of what look to be knife wounds. And then there’s the fact that she’s lying on a gray blanket. The medical examiner is having a look at her, and we hope to have a preliminary statement very soon.”

    “Has anyone been reported missing around that age?”

    “No, nowhere near it. An old man was reported missing about a week ago, but it turned out that he just got tired of being cooped up with his wife in a camper and took off with a chick he met at Galären Pub.”

    Patrik saw that the team around the body was now preparing to lift her carefully into a body bag. Her hands and feet had been bagged according to regulations to preserve any evidence. The team of forensic officers from Uddevalla worked together to get the woman into the body bag in the most efficient way possible. Then the blanket she was lying on also had to be put in a plastic bag for later examination.

    The shocked expression on their faces and the way they froze instantly told Patrik that something unexpected had happened.

    “What is it?” he called.

    “You’re not going to believe this,” said one of the officers, “but there are bones here. And two skulls. Based on the number of bones, I’d say there are easily enough for two skeletons.”

  • Meet the Author

    Camilla Läckberg worked as an economist in Stockholm until a course in creative writing triggered a drastic career change. Her novels have all been #1 bestsellers in Sweden and she is the most profitable native author in Swedish history. Camilla’s books have been published in thirty-five countries. She lives in Stockholm.

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    The Preacher: Patrik Hedstrom Series, Book 2 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
    duffyholder More than 1 year ago
    I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, the setting, the complex story. My only complaint has to do with the TERRIBLE proofreading job done on this book. I read The Ice Princess also, and found no errors. The Preacher became almost annoying to read and follow the complex story because I had to fill in missing words, misspelled words, mechanics errors. I also plan to write the publisher
    SheilaDeeth More than 1 year ago
    A small boy plays among the rocks of a well-known Swedish tourist spot. A policeman sleeps beside his heavily pregnant wife. A rebellious teen heads home. There's an oppressive summer heat hanging over all, and then there's a dead and very curiously positioned body. The scene is set for an exciting Swedish mystery, and the reader is pulled into the lives of a large and varied assortment of characters, each viewing the world in their own different ways, each hiding secrets as they navigate the world of conventional, and unconventional, courtesy. Twisted relationships reveal themselves smoothly, each hint and detail leading to the next, keeping the reader glued to the page. And the Preacher, past or present, is a complex, conflicted character. As Patrik investigates death, Erica struggles with the weight of new life inside and old relationships intruding on every breath. Recent murder contrasts with long-forgotten crime. Sodden rain contrasts with oppressive heat. And families, with all their attendant tribulations, become a recurring theme. Meanwhile the family once famous for miraculous healing proves inadequate to the task of healing itself. The novel grows darker as clues appear and disappear, like sun between clouds. The story is satisfyingly twisted, the characters complex, and the sense of time and place very real; an enjoyable dark suspense with a well-drawn Swedish setting, solid police-work, and a cast of characters well able to support a series. I suspect from some comments in the story that this isn't the first of the series, but it's a perfectly good place to start. Disclosure: I received a free ecopy of this book in exchange for an honest review; I enjoyed the read but struggled with some formatting errors, hopefully fixed in the final copies.
    Monica Gilliam More than 1 year ago
    I couldn't put the book down. I. tried to figure out the ending but just could not figure it out. GREAT STORY!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    execellent!!a really great writer,lookingforward to ideal book for abookclub.mystery readers will love her.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I've read both this and The Ice Princess and I'm impressed with how she weaves in the varying threads to create a cohesive story. Can't wait for the next one.
    JustMyTwoCents More than 1 year ago
    I don't often read fictional crime novels from foreign authors, because all too often I find something lost in the style of American vs. European works. Three differences come to mind:  First,, the motive for a crime spree in European novels is rarely anything except madness on the perpetrators part. Second, I often find European authors will present the personal storyline of a minor character for quite a while and then just abruptly drop it, and Third, many of the books don't seem to be  standalone works, but rather continue with a story into their next book. Despite the fact that this book was no exception to those three things, I still found myself carried along with the story. Many of the characters were interesting and while it would have been nice to inform readers whether Ericka gave birth to a boy or a girl at the end of the book--considering that every mention of her focused on her discomfort during pregnancy--and I also would have liked to know what became of her sister, I assume the author wants me to purchase her next book to find out. The reader is given no indication that this is an installation in a series, but you find out as you go along. That took away from the book, but it didn't make it unreadable or unenjoyable. 
    Grammykf More than 1 year ago
    Love this series. Have recommended it to several people. Surprise ending!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I liked this book, but it was a little 'discombobulating' for me. Not as good as the first two. TOO many different characters that were included .... not really a part of the story.
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    CrystalAnnie More than 1 year ago
    I loved this book so much that I ordered the next one.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I could not put the book down. It kept me guessing and wondering throughout the whole story. The way the author blends story lines together is very refreshing and unusual.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    ginnyle More than 1 year ago
    I really liked this story. I want to read all her books as available! Hope they keep translating them! I could hardly put it down and the characters are so interesting.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    BookLoverCT More than 1 year ago
    Along with Larsson, Nesser, Mankell, Roslund & Helstrom, this is an author I enjoy reading. I've put her The Stonecutters on my to-read list. Fast moving fiction.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Far-fetched and full of characters who do not have any common sense and a bunch of keystone cops headed by a delusional chief. The main characters are also problematic...
    Adaptoid More than 1 year ago
    It doesn't bother me that many readers are able to find value in this pathetic excuse for a novel, but to have professional critics compare it to the likes of Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo is inexcusable. At the start I, too, considered the translation to be sub par but after further reading I recognized the writing as the lowest level of pedestrian and, worse yet, condescending. Lackberg should have kept her job as an economist. This book is absolute garbage.
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