One man is found naked and cowering in a cold abandoned home in a former mining district. Another turns up dead in similar circumstances. When a third, a police officer investigating the crimes goes missing, a serial killer is on the loose.
Tove Alsterdal’s You Will Never Be Found is set in the frigid, dark, and atmospheric coastal area of Sweden. The action begins in the small mining town of Malmberger, north of the Arctic Circle. The mine that once supported the town has closed, most of the residents relocated. Two workers clearing the homes find the first man, curled up in the basement.
Tove Alsterdal (Photo Credit: Annika Marklund)
Meanwhile, Eira Sjödin, transferred to the violent crime division, investigates the disappearance of Hans Runne, a struggling actor, who vanished without a trace. Reported missing by Cecelia, his ex-wife, Eira turns up no leads after interviewing his daughter, friends, and checking with the local hospitals. Tone Elvin, a local photographer working on an exhibition she plans to call “Oblivion” or “Loss,” enters one of the empty mining houses, focusing on the broken chairs and other detritus left behind by the owners. When she develops the roll, however, something that looks like a hand pops up.
Tone calls the police, saying she thinks there’s someone in the basement. Eira and her partner, August, knowing that time is of the essence when searching for a missing person, enter the structure in the dead of night. The body turns out to be Runne who died a horrific death, trapped in the freezing house without a blanket, food, or water. An autopsy reveals he was reduced to eating spiders and worms to stay alive.
Researching other kidnapping cases, Eira comes up with Mikael Ingmarsson who, unlike Runne, was rescued from captivity before he died. But he’s reluctant to revisit such a traumatic event, telling Eira he didn’t know who abducted him or why. Eira suspects he’s holding back, but doesn’t push, hoping he’ll think about it and decide to cooperate.
Besides investigating Runne’s murder, Eira must settle her mother, Kerstin, into a care home. Finding a comfortable place for her mother takes some pressure off Eira, but the emotional impact is more than she planned for. She’s also worried about her brother, Magnus, serving time in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. (Apparently Magnus’ story was told in an earlier Alsterdal mystery.)
On the relationship front, Eira is having sex with her partner, August, even though he is engaged to be married. Truth be told, Eira is attracted to “GG,” Georg Georgsson, the lead investigator with violent crimes. Eira is worried about her superior, aware that he’s depressed and drinking too much. And when he, too, goes missing, Eira worries that the kidnapper is accelerating, bold enough to go after a police officer. When GG’s absence stretches to a week, Eira realizes they are running out of time.
You Will Never Be Found is the first Tove Alsterdal mystery I’ve read. It won’t be the last. In the tradition of other Scandinavian writers, she makes good use of the setting. The cold, dark places she describes may have the reader reaching for a blanket. And while the police characters are skilled and professional, they are also flawed, in other words, they’re human.
You Will Never Be Found
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