Maniratnam made a movie called ‘Geetanjali’ in Telugu, which was a big hit. Along with my friend I watched it twice. The movie was good but the comedy scenes of the movie were pathetic and tending towards the vulgar. The movie was then screened on Doordarshan. The national telecaster being who he is mercilessly snipped all the comic scenes. It was only when I saw this version I could understand how the screenplay was actually a tight one but the so called comic scenes acted as hurdles and interrupted the smooth flow of the movie. These thoughts came to my mind when I read Camilla Lackberg’s ‘Drowning’
In almost all the current mystery novels the authors triy to add the human element by ensuring each of the detectives and the villains have a family background and go on to elaborate on that aspect. In certain cases it works out very well and in certain cases this becomes a drag on the story being told. In the case of Camila Lackber’s novel, she keep developing and developing scenes on the domestic front that after some time you are exhausted and do not want to know anything more about the family life of these folks. You just want the author to get on with the story. Honestly, only by skipping paragraphs that deal with all the domestic bliss and internal monologues of the character with respect to their families was I able to complete the book. The balance must tilted on the side of the mystery but unfortunately it tilts on the side of pregnancy and child rearing.
The mystery is a fairly interesting one, though not something very novel. In Fjällbacka, a small town in Sweden, Magnus Kjellner disappears without a trace. He is a friendly man with no known enemies and has not shown any signs of distress. A few months pass before his body is recovered in a lake. In the meantime, Christian Thydell, a debutant author and friend of the missing man, has been receiving threatening notes. Is there any connection between these two incidents? How the police go about solving this mystery is told in a very roundabout way.
The most interesting part of the novel is the backstory. These are the only characters in the novel you relate with because this story is told in the form of short and crisp chapters. Added to it, the story itself is very gripping and provides a strong basis for the mystery. If only Camilla Lackberg had told the whole story in this manner, it would have been a very good book. The back story ensures that the ending, though not very novel, is interesting and logically plausible. There are many times in the book when you wonder why the police are not taking some simple steps like trying to find out the past of the characters. They do it much later than what you have expected from the police force.
The touch of a master of mystery is definitely lacking in this novel. Camilla Lackberg deliberately doesn’t tell everything to the readers. Instead she tries her best to hide a lot of things so that she can spring a surprise at the end. This gives a feeling of being cheated by the author. The joy in many of these books is in trying to unravel the mystery with the available leads and then discovering the sleight of hand of the author. When the author refuses to give you all the leads, you become more a spectator than a participant in this. The best mystery authors would make you participate in the hunt and in this book that doesn’t happen.
I would recommend this book if you are okay with skipping paragraphs and getting on to the mystery. If you are person who wants to read every line written, this book will be a tedious one. (I have heard that Camilla Lackberg’s debut novel ‘Ice Princess’ was a gripping tale. I have not read it.)