Her mom privately told her the story: Some 30 years earlier, Jens and his first wife, Annie, and their toddler, Kurt, were in terrible car collision. Annie was killed instantly. Kurt died the next day. Jens staggered on to a new life.
He died three years after she learned of his tragedy; she’d never worked up the nerve to ask about it.
“You never really know them,” she says of family and the labyrinth of secrets held within relationships. “It had to have such a huge effect on him, his life. And we never even mentioned it.”
She says this during a long lunch at a downtown Washington restaurant, on a quick U.S. tour for “The Stonecutter,” her third book to hit American shores, coming out May 9.
It’s her first visit to the District, and she and her publishers hope that “The Stonecutter” will prove to be her U.S. breakout.
Somber family history aside, she’s outgoing and funny, brown hair spilling over her shoulders, leaning forward over the table as she talks.
“If I can hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, I’m thinking of having the entire list tattooed on my body somewhere,” she says, giggling, a trace of that Scandinavian accent. “It would be fabulous.”
It would also be predictable. Since Lackberg burst onto the Swedish scene with 2003’s “The Ice Princess,” her nine novels have sold millions of copies and have been published in more than 35 countries. She was the best-selling female author in Europe in 2010. She has sold more books in Sweden than Stieg Larsson.
She debuted stateside in 2010, and her first two thrillers, “Princess” and “The Preacher,” have approached combined sales of 100,000 in hardcover, paperbacks and e-books. That’s good, but neither of the books made an appearance on any major bestseller list.
Jessica Case, the senior editor at Pegasus Books who signed Lackberg just as the Larsson phenomenon was beginning, thinks the first two books have built an audience that will grow.
“They’re sort of the definition of a locked-room mystery,” says Case. “You meet the criminal somewhere. No one’s coming in and out of this little Scandinavian town. They’re not overly political or overly graphic. They’re not your standard bloody fare.”
“Stonecutter,” like the first two books, is set inFjallbacka (fyeel-BACH-ah), a tiny resort town on Sweden’s southwestern coast where Lackberg was raised. Also like the others, there’s a present-day murder with twisted roots in an unsolved older crime, and detectives must unravel one to solve the other. The back-story, as the series develops, is the relationship of village native Erica Falck and detective Patrik Hedstrom as they move from romance to parenthood.
Here’s how she starts the new one, describing a fisherman’s macabre catch: