“It was in the middle of that summer of endless rain that the first child went missing. It all started on a Tuesday, an odd sort of day that could have passed like any other, but ended up being one that profoundly changed the lives of a number of people. Henry Lindgren was among them.”
It as an ordinary from Gothenburg to Stockholm. Henry was an observant man and he had noticed the young mother and her daughter. The little girl had long, dark wavy hair, and she had take off her mauve sandals and left them on the floor. Her mother was a red-head and mother and daughter bore little resemblance to each other. Henry noticed that the mother had blue polish on her toenails.
A few stops from Stockholm, the engineer announced to the passengers that due to a problem with the track, the train would need to make a short stop. Some of the passengers, including the child’s mother, got off the train; Henry could see her talking on her mobile. The child was sound asleep. Suddenly, the train began to move, too suddenly for the mother to get on. Henry got the information that the mother was taking a taxi and would meet her daughter at the Stockholm station. The child was still asleep as the train pulled in. When the rrain emptied, the little girl was gone. Henry never saw he leave.
Alex Recht has had more than twenty-five years experience in the police service. He has handled more than his share of cases of missing children. He had come to believe there was truth in the old saying that, “Children don’t vanish, people lose them.” The newest member of Alex’s team, Fredrika Bergman, had no experience with missing children and, in Alex’s opinion, wasn’t going to remain a street cop long enough to get it.
When they arrive at platform 17, they see many people in police uniform and the red-heded woman, Sara Sebastiansson, the mother of six year old Lilian. Sara tells the police she missed getting back on the train when a young woman asked her to help with a sick dog. When Sara realized that the train was leaving, she contacted Swedish rail to let them know she would meet her daughter in Stockholm. But somehow a six year-old vanished in plain sight.
The police learn from Sara that Lilian would not have run off if she had awoken while her mother was still outside the train. Fredrika notices that Sara keeps pulling on her long sleeves, an unusual clothing choice for such a warm day but a common one for a battered woman trying to hide bruises. Sara and her husband, Gabriel, have recently separated and custody and visitation rights haven;t yet been determined. The obvious conclusion is that Lilian’s disappearance is the first salvo on a custody fight. This should be an easy case to close but no one knows where Gabriel is.
Sara’s fears escalate when the kidnapper taunts her with hints of Lilian’s condition. But the games stop when Lilian’s body is found in the middle of a parking space outside a hospital emergency room in northern Sweden. She is naked and written on her forehead is “unwanted.”
Lilian was most definitely “wanted”, a child surrounded by love. Neither the police nor her family have a clue or a suggestion of a motive to help them understand why Lilian. And then a baby boy is stolen from his carriage outside the door of his home.
UNWANTED is the first in a series to feature Fredrika Bergman. First time novelist Kristina Ohlsson has set a high standard with this first installment. It is a police procedural about missing and murdered children with a serial killer who holds sway over young women who will do eactly what he tells them. The police can find no connection between the children, their mothers, or their families. The writer takes the reader to the very end until the motive is revealed, a motive that is political, ethical, and twenty-first century.