on 31 October 2011
'Unwanted' is a very sound,readable debut police procedural novel.
A young girl goes missing from the Gothenburg to Stockholm express
train.As the girl's mother is estranged from the father,Inspector
Alex Recht from Stockholm police considers that they are dealing
with a custody battle.However his colleague,the inexperienced
Investigative Analyst Fredrika Bergman,has her doubts.When the
child's dead body is found in Northern Sweden,the investigation
turns on its head,and they come to chase a ruthless, skilful
This is a novel of some depth,convincing characterisation,and
an interesting plot,although at 468 pages, it could have been
made somewhat shorter without losing anything.Nevertheless an
enjoyable book ,and I look forward to reading the next one in
I thoroughly enjoyed this debut crime novel by Ohlsson and hope it will be
the first of many. What I particularly enjoyed was the pacing of the
investigation which made me feel as a reader utterly involved- a true sense that
you were solving the crime at the same time as the detectives with no unfeasible
leaps in the plot or twists and turns for the sake of it. We all knew that Sara
was concealing something in the murky recesses of her past but what was it and
how did it connect to the killer? I liked the way the theme of `family' was
cleverly explored with not only the murder cases destroying two families but how
the detectives Peder and Fredrika were brought into this theme as well- Peder
who was practically destroying his own family by his affair with a colleague,
and conversely how Fredrika was undergoing her own mental turmoil in deciding
whether or not to have a family of her own. On the subject of Fredrika, I
thought her battle to have her voice heard in the investigation was a very
strong hook in the novel and reminded me of the characters of Elinborg in the
Arnaldur Indridason books and Alice in the excellent Swedish TV adaptations of
the Sjowall/Wahloo `Beck' stories. I think we all knew that Fredrika had the
makings of a good detective but didn't necessarily have the strength of her own
convictions and came across as cold and unyielding until her own investigative
tangents kicked in earning her the respect of her colleagues.
All in all, Ohlsson has proved herself as another star to add to the fine
Scandinavian crime stable and I will be wholeheartedly recommending this novel.
An extremely good read.
on 13 January 2012
Deciding how many stars to give "Unwanted" is a little difficult. Whilst I enjoyed the plot, which I thought was quite gripping, the characters, especially Alex Recht, began to annoy me after a while. I found him to be plodding and pretty useless when he was hyped as the super detective who everyone wanted to work with. It was left to new girl, civilian worker Fredrika to get things really moving whilst Alex seemed to sit with his head in his hands or gazing out windows wondering what to do next. I couldn't get to grips with WHY he was supposed to be so great when he seemed so overwhelmed by the traumatic case they were dealing with. I also felt that the final unraveling of the "why" it was happening was a little too drawn out - I found myself wanting to shout at them all like I would if I was watching a TV show! Overall, a pretty good debut and I will definitely look for more books by the author.
Another point - I found the translation irritating at times as the words used in certain contexts didn't seem correct (eg: Fredrika's manner of speaking being described as "concrete" where "concise" would have been better). I read alot of Scandinavian authors so am used to translations and have never previously considered it a problem with any of the other authors I've read, but this one grated after a while.
A debut novel from yet another Scandanavian author and well up to the standards set by her contemporaries. I note that there is a new book coming next year which I hope will feature the police team created in this first novel. Perhaps, too, its translation into English will not be as long delayed as this novel which, by the way, is very adeptly dealt with by Sarah Death.
We are given a series of characters, new to us, of course who gradually, as the storyline develops so, too, does their inter-relationship - from rocky beginnings to a much firmer standing.
However, the quality of the storytelling surrounding the abduction and subsequent murder of a little girl is excellent. The police are, naturally, baffled and it's left to the two younger members on the force to look at alternative views as to how and why this happened. That one is a 'civilian' and female investigator means there is an antagonism between her male colleagues and her own view of her worth in the job.
That it is Frederika Bergman who really starts to make progress will come as no surprise to regular crime novel readers and that Peder Rydh, her doubting male colleague, worries more about his own affair with another colleague will also strike a chord elsewhere. However, the author does not waste too much time in making progress, both with the investigation and the begrudging acknowledgement that the pair of them do discover clues and events in the past histories of the little girl's mother - all this eventully leading to a disturbing finale.
Naturally enough, there is an older, more senior member of the police team, Alex Recht who plays his part but who, not for the first time, is challenged by the younger members as to his abilities on the case but who calls the shots and deals with his team, fortunately for them.
The killer is slowly but surely unmasked, the author presenting the investgation is a very real life way. Police work takes time and because it does, another body is discovered, though this creates comparisons which do lead to the why and finally to the who.
All-in-all, a very competent novel, gripping, realistic and saddening that such killers just maybe exist out there in real life. Let's fervently hope not.
on 6 August 2012
I'm not a great reviewer or writer so if a book keeps me turning the pages and saying to myself 'I'll just read a wee bit more before I put it down' then it's a great read. This one did it for me so it gets 5 stars and it also has me on the lookout for her next book.
on 9 April 2012
I dont know if it's the writing or the translation that is at fault, but either way the end result is a rather stilted difficult to read book, sometimes unintentionally hilarious. The story itself is nothing new and the motive for the crime is pretty obvious early on, not to the three main police characters alas, who must be the dimmest detectives I have ever come across. This book is riding the wave of some truly excellent scandinavian crime thrillers that we have recently had, but alas this is not one of them.
I usually use three criteria to judge a book.
Did I enjoy it?
Would I recommend it?
Would I read the author again?
I'm afraid it's a resounding no to all three.
It is rare today to find a police procedural debut novelist not thinking ahead to a possible series and Kristina Ohlsson’s first book featuring Detective Chief Inspector Alex Recht, translated by Sarah Death, is no exception. [Readers should note that there is an Australian author called Kristina Olsson.]
Amongst other posts, Ohlsson has worked at the National Swedish Police Board, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Swedish National Defence, and here she is sure-footed in her descriptions of the Stockholm police and their investigation. One would expect the experiences of her other posts to come to the fore in her later books.
This is a convincing book which deals with violence again females and children, and so will not be to everyone’s taste. However, the violence is less graphic than in many other contemporary books. The special investigation police team is led by the ‘legendary’ Recht and includes the ambitious Peder Rydh, an administrative assistant, Ellen Lindh and Frederika Bergman. The latter is a non-police graduate entrant who has to overcome the prejudice of her male colleagues.
Ohlsson loads character deficiencies on her police team: Recht is rather arrogant, beginning to feel his age, dismissive of alternative approaches and ideas to his own, and he and his wife have lost touch with their son who is living in South America; Rydh is boorish, unfaithful to his wife and distant to his young children; Lindh is in a relationship with an unknown man who treats her like a Swedish doormat, whilst Bergman has a married lover, wants to adopt a baby, is unable to empathise with those she meets in the course of the investigation and lacks self-confidence. There is more than enough here to keep a dozen books spinning and Ohlsson handles the professional and personal aspects of her characters will considerable skill. Indeed, she offers external and internal perspectives on their characters that are, like all of us, very different.
There are chapters describing the criminals and their thinking so that the reader is always ahead of the investigation team but the reason for their crimes only emerges rather slowly. Unlike many other Nordic crime novels, the author takes the reader to many Swedish cities, as well as Stockholm we visit Umeå, Uppsala and Jönköping. Eventually these locations lead to the breakthrough that brings the mastermind, simply called ‘the Man’, to book. Unfortunately, when at last he and Recht meet face to face he is given the line ‘So we meet at last, Alexander’.
One sees the main characters each reacting to the pressures of the investigation that is compressed into one very frantic week. Most prominent is Bergman who gains self-confidence and the grudging respect of her male colleagues as she make a number of important contributions to the case. Ellen remains rather peripheral whilst Recht seems singularly ill-qualified to be as famous as he portrayed; he is a poor manager and communicator, as well as showing considerable prejudice against Bergman, a trait that is particularly interesting in a novel set in Sweden. I would have imagined that his and Peder’s behavior in the early part of the book would have had them up before a disciplinary board.
The plot is clearly laid out and, quite sensibly in her debut, Ohlsson does not overdo her narrative with subsidiary investigations. In the course of the novel, Bergman’s colleagues come to realise that she has much to offer the team. The final part of the book describes the central characters several months after the end of the investigation so that the reader is prepared for the next book. In contrast, the reader is left to reflect on what has become of those physically and mentally damaged by the case.
Mothers and children are central to the personal and professional stories described by the author who does very well to give us such rounded characters, who possess sufficient secrets and weaknesses, amplified by their internal thoughts, to underpin what is likely to be a very popular series.
I still doubt whether crimes that attracts so much media attention would have been investigated by such a small team of investigators. However, in her first book the author promises much for the future. 9/10.
on 22 March 2013
When a child goes missing from a train the police are hopeful that it may be part of a custody dispute as her parents have recently separated. When her naked body is found outside a hospital some distance away with the word unwanted written on her forehead they realise that they are dealing with a twisted killer who may have just started. Then another child goes missing and they know their worst fears have just been proved.
This is the debut novel from Swedish author Kristina Ohlsson who must surely have an excellent future as a thriller writer. The book is so fast paced that you almost feel the frantic desperation of both the parents and the police. Several Scandinavian authors I have read seem to write dour almost depressing stories full of brooding taciturn cops but this is entirely different. While you do get an insight into the lives and problems of the main characters who are obviously going to feature in further books, this is only a very small part of the story. They are focussed on solving the heinous crimes that are being committed and preventing the loss of any more innocent lives. The book could have been set anywhere without the plot being compromised. I have already downloaded the author's next book and look forward to starting it.
on 11 June 2014
This is Kristina Ohlsson's debut novel and it is magnificent. The main character is not a police officer, but a civilian who has been brought into the department to help with the work load. Whilst the officers are convinced, almost immediately, of the identity of the killer, Frederika wis not convinced and undertakes her own method of searching for the killer.
The subject of the novel is very disturbing as it involves the death of children, alongside the violence dished out on the killer's accomplices.
If there is a down-side to this novel, it would be the repetitiveness of the summing up from each of the detectives as the story goes along, but it's a minor matter, and made me all the more keen to move the story on!
on 23 March 2013
I not a fan of thrillers although i am a fan of TV drama from this area of the world such as 'The Killing'. I gave it an open mind hoping to capture something that reflected the enjoyment i felt in watching such drama. I wasn't disappointed.
This is fast paced and each aspect of the story is carefully crafted to ensure your never left wanting. The characters i found interesting and left wanting to know more after the book was finished. The story never looses reality and this only aids in the fact that it deals with some shocking aspects of crime although your never left feeling cold and desolate and in need of counselling.
It was a pleasure and i really do look forward to the next read from this author.