Another huge tome of a book, The Disappeared runs to nearly 600 pages so it’s not surprising that it took me around a week to read. When a book is that long you inevitably look to see if there is any padding that could have been left out. The Disappeared’s length is mainly down to the author’s style of writing which, although initially frustrating, made the book a substantial and complex read.
When the body of a woman is found buried in woodland, newly bereaved Alex Recht from the Stockholm police believes it to be that of the missing student, Rebecca Trolle. But the grave holds further secrets when it’s discovered that other bodies have been buried there, with the deaths having taken place years apart. As the team uncover the dead girl’s past, and her link to an elderly children’s author, their personal lives become entangled in the investigation leading to an internal inquiry.
This is the first book I’ve read by Ohlsson and I am now tempted to read her earlier novels. There is a clear backstory to all the principal police protagonists which is hinted at the text but never allowed to dominate it. In many respects, The Disappeared has all the hallmarks of a quintessential Swedish crime novel. The landscape forms an important part of the narrative, in the position of the dead bodies and the role it plays in some of the violent scenes. We also get a mix in the narrative of the police investigation and the characters’ personal lives. There’s a sense in the book of lives on the cusp of change which I’m sure will strike a chord with many readers.
The investigation is both shocking and slightly depressing. The idea of snuff films has been written about before in crime fiction although I think the author did well to include male murder victims to balance some of the extreme imagery. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, there’s only so much violence against women that I can stomach.
For me, this was an excellent introduction to a writer that I hadn’t read before. Other readers often comment on the fact that they don’t like to start books mid-series. I did so here; it was fine and, if anything, made me inclined to read the earlier books.
Thanks to Simon and Schuster for my review copy. The translation was by Marlaine Delargy.