Review: Liza Marklund – Vanished

For a reader new to Liza Marklund’s books, it is difficult to decide where start. The first book featuring her protagonist Annika Bengtzon is The Bomber which is set in the present day. However, the series then scrolls back in time to give Annika’s back story and it is only with the fifth book, Red Wolf, that we catch up with the present. In the end, I decided to start with Vanished, which has at its heart an unusual premise. I wasn’t disappointed and I’ll certainly be reading more in this series.

Annika Bengtzon is a journalist at a newspaper in Stockholm. We discover that she has been marginalised by her colleagues as the result of an incident where she killed her abusive husband. Although Annika was found not-guilty of manslaughter, the stigma of the case refuses to go away. The paper’s lead story is of the murder of two men in a freight terminal near a derelict port. Police suspect the involvement of the Yugoslav mafia and are seeking a woman, Aida, who was seen fleeing from the scene. Meanwhile, Annika gets a phone call from Rebecka, who claims that she has set up an organisation that allows her to erase the identity of women who are fleeing abusers. She can eliminate all traces of their tax, medical and social security records for a nominal fee. But when Annika starts digging further, she realises that facts cannot be checked and sources are suggesting that The Paradise Foundation is not all that it seems.

This is a substantial book and although the length at first seemed a little off-putting, it allowed for a well-constructed murder plot and also for a significant part of the story to be given over to Annika’s personal life. Annika meets in the course of her job, Thomas, a stuffy local government official. But we soon see that he has a sterile marriage and wants to widen his horizons. I suppose for those familiar with the series, it was clear what would happen to the relationship but I enjoyed not knowing whether the initial fling would develop further. It was in these scenes that I found the character of Annika irritating. She sleeps with a  married man and then gets upset when he doesn’t call and is neurotic about the whole relationship. However the scenes with Annika’s dysfunctional family suggest where her insecurities stem from.

The idea of a foundation that can erase people’s identities is an interesting one and I had no problem believing that organisations such as local authorities could fall for such scams on a large-scale. The Yugoslavian mafia angle passed me by a little, and although an important element in the crime story, for me it was the least interesting part of the novel.

A very enjoyable book and I seem to be back onto a Scandinavian noir reading frenzy. Clearly the cold weather in the UK is affecting my reading choices.

I bought my copy of this book. It originally appeared in English as ‘Paradise’ and this a new translation by Neil Smith. Other reviews can be found at Nordic Bookblog and The Little Reader Library.  Crimescraps has a useful post about the chronology of the series.

13 thoughts on “Review: Liza Marklund – Vanished

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – An excellent review! Thanks for that. I’ve not quite gotten to this one in the series, but I like the fact that it builds some foundation and some backstory for Annika and her life. She’s certainly not a perfect person, but I like her character and I think it evolves well over the series. I have to agree with you though: if one’s going to have a relationship with a married man, it’s wise not to have too many expectations from it. Of course, this particular relationship develops and both Annika and Thomas do some growing, but still, you have a well-taken point.


  2. The only one of Marklund’s books I’ve read is Red Wolf and I really enjoyed it. I really appreciate that link to the Crimescraps post as the chronology of this series is quite confusing. The idea of this organisation that erases identities sounds like it would be really engrossing.


  3. Great review Sarah. I loved this one, and The Bomber, and recently read and enjoyed Last Will, though that would probably be my least favourite so far. I’ve bought Prime Time and another one (Red Wolf I think) to read. It’s been a bit strange at times with the order I’ve read them in, but no major problems with reading it this way. Like Margot I like Annika too. Thank you very much for linking to my review of this one!


  4. I loved this book, which I read/reviewed as Paradise. Very nice review, Sarah, reminded me of how much I liked the book – though I sent my copy on (to Bernadette I think) a while back. Maybe I’ll ask Santa 😉


  5. PS, as you note, Liza M did not write these books in order, and what with the retitling when she changed publisher, it is confusing. “Studio Sex”/Studio 69” was originally released under at least two titles. The Wikipedia chronology is useful as it gives the chronological order as well as written order, plus the various alternative titles.


    1. Thanks Maxine. The wikipedia link is good too and I’m glad for the clarification. I think it was one of your reviews of another book by Marklund which prompted me to read her.


  6. kathy d.

    This sounds so good. I’ve liked Red Wolf and Last Will. But am so frustrated with my library, which has one copy of each of three of Marklund’s books, but it’s non-circulating and at an inconvenient library location. One has to go there and read. Why the library administration can’t just buy one circulating copy of each book is beyond me. I wrote a letter complaining about this.
    Yikes. Can’t wait to find this one and the others, which are at the main library branch.
    I enjoyed your review.
    I like Annika Bengtzon. She’s complicated, like so many people. These books are anything but boring.
    If she had an affair with a married man — and this is fiction, so she needn’t get a scarlet A painted on her torso, but he is not a noble character. She, too, is hurt, and right now we’re waiting to see what she does about Thomas’ meanderings and bad behavior.


    1. Thanks Kathy – I can see how it is very annoying about your library and it seems mad that you have to go and sit in the building to read the book.
      Interesting about Thomas’s future meanderings – I look forward to reading about them!


  7. Pingback: The Best of November’s Reading « crimepieces

  8. Pingback: Review: Liza Marklund – Last Will | crimepieces

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