You're in for a thrill in Fjällbacka...
“And this is where Camilla buried the body,” our guide announces, pointing to the mound of grass and rocky soil over which I had just wandered. I take a hasty step backwards. “At least, that’s what I gather from the book” she says matter-of-factly. I exhale.
You could compare the death rate in the sleepy fishing town of Fjällbacka to that of the eponymous village of Midsomer Murders. All purely fictional of course, there is no corner of Camilla Läckberg’s childhood home which hasn’t made an appearance in her world famous – and incredibly chilling – crime novels; I was standing at the location of one particularly grisly plotline.
The locals are incredibly proud of their young literary star, and relish any opportunity to point out the real life locations of her gory tales. She is in part responsible for putting Fjällbacka on the map, and it’s wonderful to see such support from the community for an individual’s work. That said, it’s still a little unnerving.
Other than the frequent references to untimely deaths and outright murder, Fjällbacka is a charming area of West Sweden, with a population hovering (precariously, Läckberg fans might say) at around 800. Once a prosperous area for fishermen, it is now a popular summer resort, blessed with some of the warmest weather in Sweden.
We had sea-kayaked 1.1km along Bohuslän’s dramatic coastline to reach our destination, passing clusters of weather-beaten granite islands, some of which have recently been used to shoot the upcoming film and television series of Läckberg’s work.
Camilla isn’t the only leading lady of Fjällbacka however; she shares the spotlight with the late Ingrid Bergman, Hollywood starlet of Casablanca fame, who spent many a summer here on her own private island, enjoying relative privacy with her family. A bronze sculpture of the actress stands majestically on the waterfront, looking out at the ocean towards her beloved home.
Our guide leads us up to a viewpoint offering a 360° panorama of Fjällbacka; boxy red-roofed houses sit snugly against the shoreline, and the archipelago dots the ocean, sprawling back as far as the eye can see. The most westerly Weather Islands glitter in the distance and the sunshine casts a warm light on the pink-tinged granite isles. I can tell that in winter this landscape must be a bitterly isolated place to live, but today it feels like the most welcoming place in the world.
We take a short paddle to the island of Valö, our resting place for the night. Hans and Karin, the owners of Valö Hotell, greet us with open arms and eager smiles. A warming dinner of baked salmon and homemade mustard dressing awaits. Taking our seats in the dining room, a time of approximately two minutes and 30 seconds elapses before Hans animatedly demonstrates where an unfortunate character of Lackberg’s Änglamakerskan (The Angel Maker’s Wife) met their demise.
“When the journalists came last time, I spilt the ketchup on the floor, like blood” he cackles.
I was eating my dinner at a crime scene.
We took an evening stroll up into the craggy hillside of Valö, keen to get a bird’s eye view of our kayaking route. The path was rugged and at points barely visible; sporadic white chalked arrows on the rocks were the only signals of our course. Breathless and berating myself for my lack of fitness, I caught a glimmering glimpse of something in the corner of my eye.
Fjällbacka was glowing. The scene was luminous. I realised with a start that this meant that the sun was about to set. Unless we found the next marker arrow soon, we would undoubtedly be stranded in the wilderness, to become defenceless targets of one of the town’s many murderers...
A hasty shuffle through the twilit shrubbery led us safe and sound back to our lodgings. As I tucked myself in for a night of well-deserved rest, I picked up my copy of The Ice Princess, Lackberg’s first novel. I was instantly immersed in the gripping story and evocative descriptions ofFjällbacka...
But I couldn’t help thinking that no matter how good the novel, you just can’t beat the real thing.
Emma flew from London Heathrow to Landvetter (Gothenburg) with British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com). SAS also fly to Gothenburg from Heathrow, and Norwegian (020 8099 7254; norwegian.com ) fly there from Gatwick. Alternatively, you can travel from London to Gothenburg by train with Rail Europe (0844 848 4078; raileurope.co.uk ). Prices for flights and trains vary and are dependent on when you travel and how far in advance you book.
You can expect personal service and entertaining anecdotes at Valö Hotell (firstname.lastname@example.org, +46 525-312 34,rooms from 575kr). With a cosy feel and delicious home-cooked food, you’ll feel like a treasured guest.
The Weather Islands glitter in the distance and the sunshine casts a warm light on the pink granite.
"The greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time" - Bill Bryson