Fifteen years ago, a teenage girl is assaulted and raped as she picks flowers for a Midsummer’s Eve ritual. Cut to the present, and a man is killed in a hit and run. He has no identification on him, he is not reported missing nor wanted by the police. At the same time, a priest and his wife are found dead in an apparent suicide. Fredrika Bergman, along with Alex Recht’s federal investigation unit, is assigned to the seemingly unconnected cases. The investigations lead to a clandestine people-smuggling network: a new player on the international human smuggling market operating out of Bangkok. As the police slowly uncover the shocking hypocrisy behind the network, they begin to find a trail that runs all the way back to the 1980s, to a crime that went unreported, but whose consequences will reach further and deeper than anyone ever expected…
 
Another excellent offering from the newest addition to the Scandinavian crime stable following up on her exceptional debut novel  Unwanted. The plot, set in Sweden, centres on the currently prevalent topic of immigration with the murders of Jakob Ahlbin, a prominent supporter of immigrants rights and his wife Marja, with the story spiralling out to include an insightful addressing of the dangers facing immigrants in their passage to a new country and a better life. Ohlsson concisely exposes the issues from both sides of the arguments through the voices of her characters and weaves an utterly realistic and engrossing portrayal of not only the political and social implications of this thorny issue, but the inherent dangers to those involved in this field of work. With the dynamics of family loyalty and the tests of friendships woven into the main plot, the reader becomes totally bound up in this gripping thriller as people continually reveal that they are not as they appear to be with the skilful use of double-crossing and dark tension throughout.

 What I particularly admire in Ohlsson’s work is her innate skill at characterisation and how she so effectively draws the readers into the lives of her main protagonists. In ‘Silenced’ the character of Fredrika Bergman, still working with the police, spirals out as a new aspect is added to her character with the impending birth of her first child by her much older married lover of some years standing. There is a wonderfully drawn scene with Fredrika bowing to parental pressure and having to introduce Spencer to them over dinner with all the awkwardness and embarrassment of bringing home your first boyfriend/girlfriend as a teenager. On a more serious note, we get an accurate portrayal of an extremely focused and intuitive woman balancing the demands of the personal and the professional whose critical thinking always adds exponentially to the course of the investigation. Ohlsson’s skill is not limited just to her female characterisation as we follow the continuing path to self-destruction through Fredrika’s wonderfully tactless colleague Peder Rydh whose marriage has now deteriorated completely and whose lover has left him. Added to this is his conflict with a new member of the investigative team Joar Sahlin for reasons that I won’t spoil here and Peder’s steep path back to acceptance and reconciliation that the book takes us on. Alex Recht, the head of the investigative team is also subject to a heartrending and all too human story line throughout the course of a book whilst retaining his clear-headed and professional demeanour in the solving of this tricky investigation so this again adds another facet to Ohlsson’s consummate skill at characterisation.

 An extremely engaging read all round and yet another example of why the Scandinavian crime scene is producing such a fine body of work for crime fiction fans. Long may it continue…

See more about Kristina Ohlsson here: http://www.thedarkpages.co.uk/books

 (Thanks to Glen at Simon & Schuster for the advanced reading copy)

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