Review: When a young girl vanishes from a commuter train after having accidentally been left on board when her mother leaves to make a phone call during a station stop, the police think it is a relatively routine custody battle between the girl's parents. But that all changes when she is later found murdered in Unwanted, the first mystery in this series by Kristina Ohlsson. (The book was first published in the author's native Sweden in 2009 as Askungar).
The police investigation is headed up by Alex Recht, but analyst Fredrika Bergman is assigned to assist him. In the first interviews after Lilian goes missing, Fredrika begins to suspect almost immediately that something is not right, that this might be more than simply a child caught in the middle of a bitter divorce … though Alex and his team are convinced Grant, the father, has kidnapped his daughter and spirited her off somewhere. Even after Lilian's body is found with the word "unwanted" carved into her forehead, Alex believes Grant is guilty. It takes a separate murder to convince him that this is the work of a deranged person … and a potential serial killer.
The crimes committed against the children in Unwanted are horrific, but fortunately the storyline doesn't dwell too much on them but rather on the team investigating them. Of these, analyst Fredrika Bergman is nominally the lead recurring character in the series, though almost as much attention is paid to police inspector Alex Recht. Their interpersonal dynamic is a strong one and it's easy to see why they have been paired, agreeing to disagree on almost every important step of the investigation … and even the unimportant ones. Yet because they bring a different set of skills to the table, they can leverage each other's knowledge and experience to advance the investigation.
Unwanted starts strong with a good foundation for the plot and introduction of the principle characters. It doesn't take long, however, before that strength starts to dissipate, mostly due to the often choppy narrative, a result of the constant, and seemingly unnecessary, change in point of view between the relatively large cast of characters … but also the lengthy — and, one might argue, rather tedious — introspectives by the characters themselves. Granted, many thrillers take this stylistic approach, but some readers may find being taken on so many narrative side trips distracting to the point of being annoying.
Acknowledgment: Atria Books provided a copy of Unwanted for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Unwanted: Sweden
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Unwanted by Kristina Ohlsson — A Fredrika Bergman Mystery
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: February 2012
List Price: $25.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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