Kristina Ohlsson’s Unwanted fell flat in the end, but nonetheless I found much to like in this debut novel.
The story concerns a child, Lilian, who goes missing from a train when her mother steps off to make a phone call and is distracted by an injured dog just long enough for the train to leave the station. The police investigating the case in Stockholm are Alex Recht’s team, especially Fredrika Bergman and Peder Rydh, who change throughout the book, both as investigators and as people, because of the case.
Fredrika is a civilian training to be a detective; she’s good at analysis and theories, but lacks the patrol-car background of her colleagues. They see her as cold and unemotional, when in fact the strong emotions of police work are what force her to shut down. They also have no idea that she’s in a long-standing, on-again off-again relationship with the married man who was her professor at university.
Peder (I interject here to state that as child I had an imaginary friend named Peder, name stolen from a kid at nursery school in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan — a place not unlike the Nordic countries, now that I think about it) is married with twin baby sons, but after a year of his wife’s severe postpartum depression, he’s finding solace elsewhere. If Fredrika is cold and unemotional, Peder is eager and spirited.
Alex is well-known in Swedish law enforcement, but it’s hard to see why based on this case alone. He steers the team down a path that turns out to be wrong, over Fredrika’s objections, which is particularly unfortunate when additional children turn up missing under similar circumstances.
It’s hard for me to say what I didn’t like about the book without giving too much away, so I’ll only say that I thought the solution, the identity of the perpetrator, was unfair to a reader like me who tries to solve the mystery as the book goes along.
Still, I liked Ohlsson’s writing — the book moves quickly and flows well, and the characters, mostly Fredrika, drew me in — and I’ll definitely read her next book, Silenced, as soon as I can find a copy.