THE ICE BENEATH HER by Camilla Grebe
CBTB Rating: 5/5
The Verdict: twisty, gripping Scandinavian crime fiction
From the moment I read its jacket copy, I knew THE ICE BENEATH HER would be a new favorite for me. This Swedish crime book is Camilla Grebe's solo debut—she has previously written crime novels with her sister, Åsa Träff—and let me preface my whole review by saying, it's a must-read for fans of Nordic Noir. If you love Camilla Läckberg, Sara Blaedel, and Jo Nesbø, you will simply devour THE ICE BENEATH HER.
This book has all the essential components of great Scandinavian crime fiction: a strong police procedural, a dark, moody atmosphere, and compelling, burdened detectives—plus this book has a voice all its own, which delivers twists and unreliable narrators that can compete with the best of modern psychological thrillers. In short, it's the perfect blend of current crime fiction trends with the ageless strength of Nordic Noir.
When a young woman is found beheaded in the home of a Stockholm business tycoon, investigator Peter Lindgren and psychological profiler Hanne Lagerlind-Schon are put on the case. The two must negotiate their previous, dangerous relationship in a case that becomes more convoluted by the minute: they can't identify the murder victim, and now the tycoon is missing... In an alternate plot thread, readers meet Emma, a shy young woman with a dark past all her own. A chance encounter between the same business tycoon soon lead Emma into a whirlwind secret relationship with the businessman... but when he disappears on her, Emma begins to wonder how far he would go to silence his secret lover...
I'm rarely at a loss for words when it comes to reviewing crime books, but this one left me speechless. This book is a standout—not just a standout within the Scandinavian crime genre, but a standout, period. Readers generally know what to expect when picking up a Nordic crime book; we love them for their harried, burdened detectives, their beautiful yet bleak atmospheres, and their meticulous police procedurals. I will always love Scandinavian crime fiction for those qualities, but there is something undeniably thrilling about watching an author push the envelope of his or her genre—and Camilla Grebe does so effortlessly.
It would simply take too long to explore in depth all the elements that make this book great, so I'm going to keep things simple with a numbered list, and I'll expand upon my most favorite element at the list's end.
- Police and profiler perspectives. I'm sure many of you can relate: I absolutely love books that delve into the world of psychological profiling, and it was such an added bonus to have a female profiler contributing to this book's central case.
- Rich, three-dimensional character development. One piece of this story revolves around the personal life of Hanne, the psychological profiler. Her story is heartbreaking, raw, and completely immersive; likewise, the character of Emma simply leaps off the page.
- Masterful plot development. Camilla Grebe simply knows what she's doing. She has plotted out a complex, razor-sharp mystery that had me on the edge of my seat. Each plot development is precise and intentional, building towards the story's shocking conclusion.
And last but certainly not least, my most favorite element of this story was its unpredictable plot twists and unreliable narrator(s). As I previously mentioned, when I read a Scandinavian crime book, I'm not expecting a major, GONE GIRL-style plot twist. There is so much to love about Nordic Noir, but that's not one of the typical characteristics of the genre. In THE ICE BENEATH HER, Camilla Grebe has found a unique freedom to blend the best of Nordic Noir with a plot twist that completely blew me away. There's almost no way for me to discuss it further without spoiling anything, and I would never want to do that! Suffice it to say, I was floored by this story's finale, and shocked to discover that one or more characters in this book were not at all what I expected.
THE ICE BENEATH HER felt like it was tailor-made for my reading preferences, and I am quite confident it will feel the same to many of you. This is a gripping, gritty, suspenseful debut that packs a serious punch. Read this book if you love Scandinavian crime fiction with character-driven, emotional plotlines, and/or if you're a reader who's hooked on psychological thrillers with major twists and unreliable narrators.
THE ICE BENEATH HER releases December 27, 2016 from Ballantine Books.
Disclaimer: I am an employee of Penguin Random House. All opinions my own.