Source: Review copy
Publication: 13 December 2018 from Orion
She must find Annabelle. Before it’s too late.
Nora’s daughter Annabelle has disappeared, last seen on her way home from a party.
Gullspång’s inexperienced police are wilting under the national media spotlight – and its residents desperate for answers.
THE CLOCK IS TICKING . . .
Stockholm DI Charlie Lager must return home to find Annabelle, and then get out of town as soon as she can. Before everyone discovers the truth about her . . .
A very Happy New Year to all my readers. I hope 2019 bring you all you hope for and that it is full of bookish goodness.
I’m delighted to say that my first review of the year is for a bit of a cracker, The Missing by Lina Bengtsdotter. I could not have asked for a better book to begin with.
It’s been a while since the start of a book grabbed me quite so hard by the short and curlies. This is Scandi crime in pretty explosive, highly atmospheric style.
A young woman, Annabelle Roos, goes missing from the small and somewhat claustrophobic Swedish town of Gullspang. Local police have investigated but their progress is slow to going nowhere and they ask the Stockholm National Operations Department for help. Charlie’s boss decided to send his best two detectives, Charlie and Anders.
Charlie is something of a stereotypical Scandinavian detective. Hard drinking, indiscriminate in the choice of sexual partners this is a detective with hallmarks you recognise well. But Charlie is a woman and a damn fine detective; one who has suffered her fair share of sexism in and out of the force and who, as we will soon find out, has secrets of her own that she has left behind in Gullspang.
It’s been 19 years since Charlie left and she really had hoped never to have to return. She doesn’t talk much about her childhood and with good reason. Charlie doesn’t want to go back but will go where the job takes her. Gullspang is full of memories for her and some secrets she’d hoped to leave behind for ever.
Lina Bengtsdotter tells her story from different perspectives. Weaving together different timelines and story strands, we find out about a friendship between two girls, Alice and Rosa which takes a sinister turn; Annabelle’s childhood and the time leading up to her disappearance and Charlie’s own upbringing with an alcoholic mother which unleashes all the memories and events Charlie has spent years working to suppress . Each of these stories has something to contribute to the tale of what happened to Annabelle and why.
Bengtsdotter has an original voice that benefits from well-formed characters that stand out as believable and the story arc is certainly compelling. Her prose is strong and well-paced and there’s no messing around as the story powers to its denouement.
The sense of location is really good, helped by the fact that the author comes from Gullsprang, but the atmosphere and the claustrophobia of the town where it is everyone’s business to know who’s ruling the roost, adds a strong dose of authenticity. This is certainly not the liberated, contemporary Sweden we read about in our papers and the book is the better for exposing the flaws.
Well written and quite transfixing, this is a book I was glued to until I got to the surprising and unpredictable end. I’m keen to read more by Bengtsdotter, although I did feel slightly beaten up by the end of the book which came so quickly and felt just a bit unfinished; certainly it’s as rushed an ending as I have come across in a while.
Verdict: A strong and propulsive crime thriller that chills the blood and stirs the emotions.
About Lina Bengtsdotter
Lina Bengtsdotter grew up in Gullspång, Sweden. She is a teacher in Swedish and Psychology and has published a number of short stories in various newspapers and magazines in Sweden and the Nordic countries. She has lived in the UK and in Italy and today resides outside of Stockholm with her three children. FOR THE MISSING is her debut novel.
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