Detective Embla Nyström (Hunting Game, 2019) returns to the Gothenburg region’s Violent Crimes Unit just in time to head the search for two missing children.
After missing the school bus home, 9-year-old Amelie Holm hitches a ride with Kristoffer Sjöberg, the cousin of her friend Tuva. That’s the last that anyone sees of her—unless you count the fact that 17-year-old Kristoffer, who’s on the autism spectrum and doesn’t talk much under ideal circumstances, eventually says that he dropped her off at her house. In the meantime, his father, wealthy intermittent alcoholic Olof Sjöberg, has lawyered up and warned the police to stay away from his son. And so they do, distracted at first by the fatal stabbing of Norwegian gangster Robert Halvorsen. When a second child, 6-year-old Viggo Andersson, disappears, Embla and her VCU teammates get more interested in the case, especially because the fathers of the two vanished children have been close friends since they were children themselves. A body turns up in a remote ditch, but it’s that of Strömstad police officer Viktor Jansson, not one of the missing children. Ugly online rumors outpace the investigation, and while the police are still trying to put the pieces together, someone, evidently convinced that Kristoffer is behind both disappearances, sets fire to Sjöberg’s home, killing him and sending Kristoffer to the hospital, where he’s attacked yet again by an assailant wielding a knife just like the one that stabbed Robert Halvorsen. “What the hell is going on in Strömstad?” wonder the members of the Regional Crime Center, doubtless echoing the sentiments, and maybe even the tone, of many readers. But don’t tell that to Embla, a former boxing champ who may never fight again but has at least made a highly satisfactory sexual connection.
Tursten eventually ties all the strands together, but the effect is more sad than logically or dramatically memorable.