Source: Review copy
Publication: 9th July 2020 from Head of Zeus
It was meant to be your daughter’s first sleepover.
Now it’s an abduction.
Lucia Blix went home from school for a playdate with her new friend Josie. Later that evening, Lucia’s mother Elisa dropped her overnight things round and kissed her little girl goodnight.
That was the last time she saw her daughter.
The next morning, when Lucia’s dad arrived to pick her up, the house was empty. No furniture, no family, no Lucia.
In Playdate, Alex Dahl puts a microscope on a seemingly average, seemingly happy family plunged into a life-altering situation. Who has taken their daughter, and why?
I’ve enjoyed Alex Dahl’s previous two books so picking up Playdate was an obvious choice for me. Though I would not necessarily lean towards storylines that seem more family oriented (just my quirk) this one certainly held my attention well throughout.
The premise is a good one. Elise Blix an airline steward, meets a rather good looking woman called Line and her daughter Josie as she is dropping off her own daughter, Lucia at school. Josie and Lucia are clearly good friends, so when Josie’s mum offers to have Lucia over for a playdate, Elisa is happy to agree and drops her off at a rather swish house. When Lucia’s mum calls to say the pair are having a great time, confirmed by Lucia, Elisa agrees to extend the playdate to a sleepover. But when Lucia’s dad goes to pick her up…there’s no trace of the child or of the family she was staying with.
For Lucia and her husband, Fredrik, this is the start of a nightmare. It becomes clear that Lucia’s disappearance was part of an orchestrated plan and the police are on the lookout for a gang of sex traffickers and people smugglers who seem to be implicated in Lucia’s disappearance.
Now this storyline immediately starts to remind you of cases of children who have been abducted in real life, but the emphasis of this story is much more on the characters involved. Fredrik and Lucia have a happy marriage, but each keeps secrets from the other. And one of them is keeping a secret that may make the difference as to whether they see Lucia again. What is more important than finding her, the reader is constantly asking, as that secret threatens the whole fabric of their marriage.
As the police launch a massive manhunt, recently redundant journalist Selma is trying to get her career back on track, and she thinks she has found a lead that no-one else has spotted.
The reader is able to follow the plot through the perspectives of three characters and Lucia herself and we are treated to the inner thoughts of these characters as the narrative arc develops. It is this psychological insight that makes the book special for me and allows you to understand what is going on in the minds of the principal protagonists.
There are quite a few plot twists and in the last third of the book the pace of the action picks up to allow for a rather dramatic and intense finale that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Verdict: A well-written psychological thriller that takes the reader in unexpected directions and isn’t afraid to lob in a few curveballs. I liked it best for the insight into the character’s minds and the intricate plot twists which were nicely woven into the storyline.
Half American, half Norwegian, Alex Dahl was born in Oslo. She graduated with a BA in Russian and German Linguistics with International studies and went on to complete an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, followed by an MSc in Business Management at Bath University. Alex currently lives between London and Sandefjord in Norway which is also the setting of her first novel, the international bestseller and award-shortlisted psychological suspense thriller, THE BOY AT THE DOOR. She has followed up this success with THE HEART KEEPER and PLAYDATE, also ‘Scandi noirs’, and also acclaimed and translated around the world.
Photo: copyright Nina Rangoy