Those who read UNWANTED by Kristina Ohlsson have been waiting for SILENCED, the second in what is known as the Fredrika Bergman series. Bergman, a civilian assigned to an elite investigative unit of the Stockholm, Sweden police force, has no police training. Yet she brings a fresh attitude and pair of eyes to the investigation, occasionally to the consternation of her team members and the initially grudging but presently full-throated approval of Detective Superintendent Alex Recht, who heads up the Criminal Investigation Department.
"SILENCED presents a rich and complex puzzle. However, Ohlsson...skillfully deals out the elements of the story piecemeal, never for a moment leaving the reader lost or confused while always keeping things interesting with the ensemble’s personal and professional problems."
Bergman may be a fish out of water given her lack of police tradecraft, but as SILENCED begins, she has plenty of company. Recht is experiencing some quiet domestic turmoil; two of the team members --- the somewhat overbearing Peder Rydh and his new partner, the enigmatic and razor-sharp Joar Sahlin --- are a poor fit personality-wise and, as they come to discover, have other conflicts as well. Bergman is in the advanced stages of pregnancy, said condition occasioned by her married lover, who shows no signs of leaving his wife. This isn’t your grandfather’s “Dallas,” however. As the book begins, the understaffed team is given two sets of deaths to investigate. One is what looks to be the murder-suicide of Jakob Ahlbin, a priest, and his wife Marja at their home. A suicide note is found with the bodies, stating that their daughter had died recently of a drug overdose. Given that Jakob had suffered in the past from major depressive episodes, it appears initially that the case is a domestic tragedy.
There are cracks in the facade, however, not the least of which is that Jakob had received threats as a result of his advocacy on behalf of immigrants, an unpopular political position in some quarters. It becomes clear all too soon that what started as somewhat of an open-and-shut investigation is in fact a double homicide with the number of suspects multiplying as the investigation goes deeper into the recent and remote pasts of the victims and their associates.
The other case is an apparent hit-and-run accident that has claimed the life of an unidentified man. A coroner’s examination, however, reveals that someone not only hit and ran over the victim but also backed over him to make sure that the job was properly done. An unexpected link to the two cases arises, complicating the respective investigations by more than a factor of two.
As if this was not enough, a young woman in Bangkok suddenly discovers that she is cut off from home and that her identity has been stolen. Without money, clothes, or luggage, she turns in desperation to an unlikely source for help, unaware of the extent of what will await her when and if she returns home, though she holds the answers to many of the incidents that have been occurring in her absence. To fully solve both cases, though, Bergman and her team will have to reach back into the past to uncover secrets and motives that have festered for decades and only now are manifesting themselves in the form of a body count that will only increase.
SILENCED presents a rich and complex puzzle. However, Ohlsson (aided by Sarah Death’s uncredited English translation of the book from the original Swedish), skillfully deals out the elements of the story piecemeal, never for a moment leaving the reader lost or confused while always keeping things interesting with the ensemble’s personal and professional problems. While all does not end totally well, there are enough unanswered questions in Bergman’s personal life to keep readers interested in the next installment. Given that at least two more books in the Bergman series have been published in Sweden, readers in the United States still have much to anticipate. In the meantime, SILENCED is a perfect addition to must-read lists.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 3, 2013