Source: Review copy, Netgalley
Publication: 20th February 2020 from
She must find the truth about Francesca. Before the past catches up with her…
AN UNSOLVED MYSTERY
Thirty years ago, teenager Paul Bergman was found drowned in Gullspång’s lake, and his best friend Francesca vanished from her home. Paul’s death was ruled a suicide, and Francesca was never found.
A DETECTIVE’S OBSESSION
DI Charlie Lager is still haunted by childhood memories of a strange house and the missing girl who once lived there.
A DEADLY SECRET
Convinced that the original investigation was flawed, Charlie is determined to uncover what really happened all those decades ago. But someone out there is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the truth from coming out…
I really enjoyed the first Charlie Lager book, For The Missing, so I was dead keen to read the follow up, For The Dead. This is a series where you will want to start from the beginning, so as not to miss anything about the character of Charline Lager. Charlie is a Detective Inspector with the Stockholm Police and right now she is struggling. Thanks to the events of For the Missing, she is drinking too much and over medicating on anti-depressants.
As with the first book, this series is character driven and Charlie is front and centre of what is going on. Drawn back to her home town of Gullspång, Charlie has become fascinated a cold case from 1989. Francesca Mild was only 17 when she disappeared from her home; police thought she may have been a runaway whilst others speculated that she was so distraught by the supposed suicide of her friend, Paul Bergstrom that she too may have taken her own life, though a body has never been found.
Journalist Johan Ro is also interested in this case and despite the fact that many in the police department think Charlie leaked information on a past case to him, the two decide to work together as Charlie takes time off to investigate outside of police auspices.
The story is told in a dual narrative, Charlie in the present day and Francesca in the past. Charlie becomes fascinated by Francesca, not least because she can’t remember anyone in Gullspång talking about this case when she was around investigating another missing girl case and she can’t understand why that would be.
Coming home to Gullspång causes emotional turmoil and the resurgence of many memories, not all of them pleasant for Charlie and as the book progresses it seems as if Charlie and Francesca’s lives have more than just Gullspång in common.
Not everyone is happy that Charlie and Johan are looking into Francesca’s death and those who are not are more than ready to show it. The original police investigation begins to look very sloppy indeed with Francesca’s mental health frequently cited as the reason for her behaviour and no-one looking behind her actions to try and understand why she would behave as she did.
This is the strength of Lina Bengtsdotter’s writing. She is all about the psychology and depth of her characters, wanting the reader to understand what motivates them and why they are driven to act as they do. In investigating Francesca’s death, Charlie is also learning a lot about herself and her own upbringing. Once more she is confronted with ghosts from her past and fragments of memories of her mother keep popping into her head and will not go away. These are often things she would rather forget. But this sleepy village does not make that easy; this is a small place where everyone knows a bit of her history.
In Gullspång, there is also someone for whom the past is still very much alive; someone who is prepared to keep the truth hidden whatever the cost.
Verdict: The second in the Lager series lets the reader in to more of Charlie’s past and contains some surprising and shocking revelations that will undoubtedly impact on future books. The case is beautifully plotted and the atmosphere is delightfully tense with the disparate fragments coming together to tell a sad and intense story. Terrific writing and brilliantly drawn characters make this a compelling read. I do wish the translator was credited though – could not find that information anywhere.
Lina Bengtsdotter was raised in the small town of Gullspång, the setting of her lauded Charlie Lager series. She has a background in teaching within the fields of Swedish and Psychology and started off her literary career as a short story writer with works published in numerous newspapers in the Nordic countries.