Crime fiction,  Nordic Noir

Unwanted by Kristina Ohlsson

Last weekend I decided to give myself a break and read what a I wanted from Friday to Monday, which translated on reading detective fiction novell Unwanted by Swedish author Kristina Ohlsson. And the only word I can think of is “amazing”.

From Book Depository:

“One mistake changes everything…”In the middle of a rainy Swedish summer, a little girl is abducted from a crowded train. Despite hundreds of potential witnesses, no one noticed when the girl was taken. Her distraught mother was left behind at the previous station in what seemed to be a coincidence. The train crew was alerted and kept a watchful eye on the sleeping child. But when the train pulled into Stockholm Central Station, the little girl had vanished. Inspector Alex Recht and his special team of federal investigators, assisted by the investigative analyst Fredrika Bergman, are assigned to what at first appears to be a classic custody fight. But when the child is found dead in the far north of Sweden with the word “unwanted” scribbled on her forehead, the case soon turns into the investigation team’s worst nightmare–the pursuit of a brilliant and ruthless killer.

First of all, I was in a desperate need for some crime/detective fiction after a semester of 19th century literature and too many lessons. When I first found this book, I thought it would make a great summer reading, like The Dinosaur Feather did last year, but after I had a look at my plans for the next month, it was clear: this book would be my break from academic readings and life in general. So, I started reading an average of 100 pages a day, not because I wanted to meet my imaginary deadline, but because I could not put the book down, not even at 2 in the morning.

The plot, as some of you remarked when I first talked about the book, is tough. Crime novels with to kids are never easy, either they are eerie and scare you to death, or they break you down. This is not the terror-kind, so when I bought the book I was aware that this book would break me down. And I thought it was fine. For me, crime novels explore the darkest side of human beings: I do not want anyone to be murdered, but when they are, I can’t stop wondering why. The psychology behind the violence and the atrocity is what we should focus on. Why do people do the things they do?

In the case of Unwanted, this interest was only one more reason to keep reading. The rhythm of the plot is just perfect: just when it has slowed down a bit and your eyes are too tired to turn another page, something happens that makes you keep reading. The characters were also key here. Lately, characters in detective fiction tend to be a couple with an unbeliavable sexual tension between them and the readers wishing for their first kiss. I really like these characters, as in Bones and Kate Aktinson’s novels, but I wanted something different. In Unwanted, we can find round characters, almost human, dancing in the grey areas of life. Alex Recht is the oldest of them, being in charge of the unit, but it was the female character – surprise, surprise – that I loved: Fredrika Bergman. I could feel myself identified with her and some of the problems in her life.

I totally recommend this book to anyone who likes detective fiction. But, beware of the plot. If you are especially sensitive to children’s disappearances, this book is not for you. On the contrary, if you are searching for a thrilling detective novel with that wonderful Scandinavian style so famous in recent years, Unwanted is perfect for you.

The good news for all those who loved this book is that it is the first in the Fredrika Bergman series. The bad news is that the three following installments are yet to be translated. Lucky Swedish readers! Apparently they all have an English title assigned, but neither Amazon nor The Book Depository sell them. If you find them online, please share the link 🙂 Anyway, you can check the books and the author here.



  • Rikki

    Btw, I just checked the German title of this book and it is called “Aschenputtel” (Cinderella). Interesting!

    • Elena

      Wow… it really is! I actually read it in Spanish and the title was “Elegidas” (The Chosen Ones (in feminine)). I’m always amazed by translations.

  • Rikki

    The Chosen ones – that kind of gives it a different spin, doesn’t it? I read a few reviews on amazon (some were not very favourable) and one of the reviewers mentions the title refers to the shoes of the girl that are left behind in the train. Not sure whether this isn’t a simplistic explanation, but then, I don’t even know what I am talking about, :).

    • Elena

      Mmm not really although the shoes are obviously connected to someone in the novel 🙂

      I found it really good, but it’s still a detective novel and some readers may be sensitive to the topic, which I totally understand. It was better than the average detective novel, but not a landmark in the genre 🙂

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