Unwanted by Kristina Ohlsson

Unwanted is a debut novel, and the first of a series of Swedish crime novels to be translated into English.

I wasn’t sure that I wanted to start on another series, but when the book appeared on the library it caught my eye. The cover was striking, the plot looked promising, and the comparison to ‘The Killing’ made a change from the usual Steig Larsson mention on the cover of pretty much anything Scandinavian.

And I knew that if I didn’t grab it while it was there I might not see it again for months, and wish that I had picked it up when I had the chance.

I found much that I could praise.

The plot was nicely set up. A sleeping child disappeared from a train when the mother was distracted. Maybe intentionally. There were few witnesses and who could offer any help and there was virtually no physical evidence.

Of course a team was called in to investigate: Alex Recht, an experienced and respective detective; Peder Rydh, a young, ambitious detective; and Fredrika Bergman, a civilian investigative analyst.

The parents of the missing child were separated, and not on good terms. The two men immediately identified him as their prime suspect, dismissing other possibilites.

That worried me. Because I was sure they were wrong. And surely when  a child was missing all possibilities should be investigated?

Fortunately Fredrika had the same concerns, and started to look into other angles …

That’s as much as I want to say about the plot.

But I will say that it is well constructed, on classic lines. That the style is simple and clear. That the pace is very well judged, so that I was drawn in and asking questions. That themes are cleverly echoed across the investigating team and the crime that they are investigating.

I’m afraid though that as the story moved forward I began to see a few problems.

I saw fairly early on what the motive would be and how the story would play out. It felt right psychologically, and I have no real argument with the plotting or the storytelling, but I really would have liked to have had some questions left hanging for a little longer.

I saw that the characterisation was simplistic and lacked any real depth. And that some of the most interesting characters and possibilies went unexplored. Now I could  forgive that in a short and snappy mystery, but I’m a little less forgiving when a story is spread over 470 pages.

That’s not to say that Unwanted isn’t a promising debut. It is, and I can see potential for an interesting and successful series.

But the first half of the book raised my expectations, so that I thought I might be reading a great crime novel and was disappointed when I got rather less than that.

Good, but not as good as I had hoped.

Translated by Sarah Death

3 responses

  1. I have been eyeing this book up for weeks as I’ve seen it in book shops but I haven’t bought it yet. I still want to read it, so maybe I will check to see if we have it in our library too rather than spend money on it. Thanks for the honest review.

  2. Pingback: Book review: Unwanted by Kristina Ohlsson | Petrona

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