Ohlsson, Kristina - 'Unwanted' (translated by Sarah Death)
UNWANTED is the author's debut and the first in a police-procedural series set in Stockholm.
The book opens with the disappearance of a six-year-old girl from a crowded train as it arrives in Stockholm. Witnesses are few and the physical evidence minimal. The team called in to investigate is the one headed by the legendary Alex Recht and comprises civilian and academic Fredrika Bergman and the young-gun Peder Rydh.
As the parents of the girl are separated, attention is focussed on the father as a high percentage of the time it's a family matter when children are snatched. But Fredrika pursues another line of enquiry as there's something a bit odd about how the train was delayed before Stockholm which gave the girl's mum time to leave the train to make a phone-call, and crucially unable to reboard.
Alex and Peder are dismissive of Fredrika with her non-police background and continue to follow standard procedure. And though both approaches reveal hidden secrets, it's Fredrika's which reveals that there's a larger plan at work.
I don't want to say any more about the plot however it does unfold pretty much as you would expect and that there is a second disappearance, this time of a baby; I must stress that the parts concerning children and violence are not graphic. Though it takes the police a while to catch-up, the motive behind the kidnappings seems to me to be obvious, as are the answers to: will Fredrika's colleagues realise that she has something to offer, or not?; will she quit her job after the investigation is concluded, or not? But it is nonetheless a fairly gripping read as the reader follows the methodical police investigation, and there are one or two surprises. The progress of the investigation is augmented by details of the characters' personal lives and Peder becomes a more sympathetic character by the end of the book, whilst Fredrika has to make some decisions about motherhood. Indeed the whole book has a parents and children theme. Alex is a much more shadowy character than the other two, and it is not clear from his actions in this case, why he is such a star in the Stockholm police.
In conclusion, though the subject matter in UNWANTED may not be to everyone's taste, the main characters not particularly likeable at first and the plot well-constructed but nothing really new, the story-telling does pull you in and means I'll definitely be reading the next one in the series.
Karen Meek, England
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