Stieg Larsson's Heir? Camilla Läckberg

So you’ve read The Millennium Trilogy and saw the Swedish film versions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire, but your appetite for chilly Swedish crime fiction has not yet been sated. Who do you read next? Free Press and Pocket Books are betting that U.S. readers will turn to Camilla Läckberg; after a heated auction they just jointly bought the U.S. paperback rights to the Swedish crime novelist’s first three novels‚ The Ice Princess, The Preacher, and The Stonecutter‚ from Pegasus Books. She may still be unknown here, but Läckberg is the sixth best-selling novelist in Europe, behind Larsson but ahead of Henning Mankel and John Grisham. Rights have been sold in 33 countries, and her books have been translated into 25 languages.

Last weekend Läckberg was in the Big Apple, participating in a panel on international thrillers at Thrillerfest V along with British authors R.J. Ellroy and Peter James, German novelist Sebastian Fitzek, and fellow Swede Maria Gustafsson. When asked to explain the success of Scandinavian crime fiction, Gustafsson pointed out that Sweden is a secretive country, one that hasn’t has a war in 200 years. “There’s something about Sweden that’s different, that makes it attractive to readers.” James agreed, noting that the benign socialist backdrop made the crimes set in Sweden all the more shocking: “It’s the unexpected in quiet places.”

Swedish writer Maria Gustafasson

Although Läckberg now lives in Stockholm with her policeman fiancé, she chose to set her psychological crime novels in one of those quiet places, the small coastal town of Fjällbacka (pop. 1000) where she grew up as the daughter of a policeman. “I know how people there think and speak,” said Lackberg, and her depiction of small-town Swedish life in her books have resonated with readers around the world, including a Spanish journalist who told the author that she recognized much of her own village in Läckberg’s Fjällbacka. Indeed, tourists now flock to this resort (Ingrid Bergman once owned a house here) on Sweden’s western coast to tour the places mentioned in her thrillers. Läckberg even joined one of these popular literary tours and fell into a spirited debate with the guide over where her books really took place.

Best-selling thriller author Camilla Läckberg

Wilda Williams About Wilda Williams

Wilda "Willy" Williams ( is LJ's Fiction Editor. She specializes in popular fiction and edits the Mystery, Science Fiction, Christian Fiction, and Word on Street Lit columns.


  1. I think the only common denominators between Lackberg and Larsson are that they are Swedish and very popular. Their styles could hardly be more different.

    Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series would be a better “if you like Stieg Larsson, you might like” suggestion. His plots are complex and worked out in long but very fast-paced books, and many of the stories engage social issues as Larsson did, and there’s some of the slightly-paranoid big conspiracy flavor as well. Lackberg’s stories are more psychological and involve small town interpersonal relationships and a lot of romance.

    Lackberg might appeal more to fans of Louise Penny and Mari Jungstedt, but people who are looking for the next Steig Larsson may be disappointed. I’m not saying they aren’t engaging books, they’re just very different.

  2. D’oh! …the next Stieg Larsson (sorry for the typo).

  3. Wilda Williams says:

    Thanks Barbara for noting the distinct differences between Larsson and Lackberg. Even though her publishers are trying to cash in on the Larsson mania, I agree she would appeal more to fans of Louise Penny and other authors of psychological mysteries set in small towns. For readers reluctant to try international mysteries, she offers a good introduction to the genre. As I noted, her portrait of small-town Swedish life has resonated with readers around the world.

  4. Those who enjoy Louise Penny might also enjoy Johan Theorin – terrific psychologically acute mysteries that move at a more contemplative pace than Larsson.

    One thing that makes Swedish mysteries relatively accessible is that the society depicted is really not so different than our own. Or perhaps it seems that way to me because I live in Minnesota. :)

  5. Steven T. Murray says:

    I haven’t read Louise Penny, but if you’re looking for the best in Swedish psychological crime fiction, read Karin Alvtegen, who has yet to break through in the U.S. (though her first was nominated for an Edgar last year). I’ve done the subsequent 3 so far, and they are a real challenge but satisfyingly creepy for sure. –Steve

    • Wilda Williams says:

      Steven, Thanks for the heads up on Karin Alvtegen. Haven’t read her yet, but will put her on my list. Who is publishing her in the States?

  6. Steven T. Murray says:

    P.S. And neither one of them is remotely similar to Stieg Larsson, who was definitely one of a kind.

  7. Krissi says:

    I loved the larsson books because the crimes weren’t terribly graphic in a way that I would be scared in my home at night. Which international author do you recommend that writes about crimes that aren’t so gruesome, like larsson?

    • Wilda Williams says:

      I think you would enjoy Camilla Lackberg’s The Ice Princess. She offers more of a small-town feel and she’s not quite as dark and violent as Larsson.

  8. HELLO…i am addicted to CAMILLA LACKBERG..her books are fantastic..and i interviewed her for my website, http://WWW.DAVIDSBOOKTALK.COM..i can’t wait to read more of her might say i am anyone else? listen to my wonderful interview with this intriguing lady…let me know what you think..DAVID

  9. Hello,
    Well to compare Camilla L√§ckberg with Stieg Larsson is not fair. Larsson has the big city and an international twist to his stories. L√§ckberg has a wide audience who enjoy the intrigues of a small place. Rather than Larsson I would say Agatha Cristie…
    And as I am in that picture I might clarify, I am definitely not in Stieg Larssons league – I write spy stories.
    Best regards,
    Maria Gustafsson


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