The third installment in award-winning author Kristina Ohlsson’s Fredrika Bergman series is a crime fiction fan’s dream. With The Disappeared, Ohlsson creates both an elaborate police procedural and a multilayered mystery that engages readers in a complex case with an unexpected ending. Once again featuring the brilliant Stockholm investigative analyst who tackled confounding cases in Unwanted and Silenced, The Disappeared brings Fredrika back to work on an unsolved missing-persons case. As she tries to make sense of a gruesome discovery—the missing woman’s body is found in an apparent mass grave—Fredrika finds that nobody is above suspicion, even those closest to her.
This multilayered story builds to a shocking finale.
Ohlsson’s layered approach to storytelling can feel disjointed at first, as she delivers snippets of backstory and brief glimpses of each character’s life. Like rocks in a stone wall, however, the fragments build on one another, resulting in a sturdy structure that depends on the relationships between the pieces. Readers might consider taking notes on the fascinating—if sometimes disturbing—characters that Ohlsson draws forth. There’s an elderly children’s author who hasn’t uttered a word in decades, a former boyfriend with a troubling obsession, and a web of mystery that includes sexual assault charges, pornography and snuff films. It’s dark stuff, and Ohlsson never backs away, but instead takes us in for a closer look at the killer’s motives and methods.
If your notes fail to fully illuminate the winding path through this mystery, Ohlsson does provide guideposts along the way, as the investigators stop to consider the evidence and its implications. The action never pauses for long, however, and soon Ohlsson has us following another lead down another trail, wondering how they will all fit together. When they do, it’s in a most surprising but satisfying way.