Newest Review: ... of doing things, as the information is given to us a bit at a time. Her childhood was quite traumatic, and it is easy to see why she ends... more
Missing, believed guilty
Missing - Karin Alvtegen
Member Name: sunmeilan
Missing - Karin Alvtegen
Advantages: Very readable, short chapters
Disadvantages: Suspense of disbelief required, some wooden translation
I have read and enjoyed one or two books by Karin Alvtegen before, so was more or less sure that I would have an entertaining read. Alvtegen is a Swedish author who tends to tell her stories from the point of view of the victim, rather than the police - in this case, Sibylla is a homeless woman who just happens to have been at the site of the first murder. As a character, Sibylla is an interesting one. er story is told from the point of view of the present in one chapter and then the past in alternating chapters, which is a very gripping way of doing things, as the information is given to us a bit at a time. Her childhood was quite traumatic, and it is easy to see why she ends up being homeless, all of which adds to her layers as a character. She has had mental health issues in the past - and as mental health is a subject close to my heart, I found this particularly interesting. She isn't the most endearing character I have ever come across, but she certainly is appealing, and she provides an insight into the everyday trials and tribulations of a homeless person.
The other characters in the book play very secondary roles, and this is perhaps why they don't seem very natural. Her parents, for example, are very black and white - her mother is an evil manipulator and her father is totally under his wife's thumb. I found this all quite hard to believe - most people have shades of good and evil in them, but not, apparently, Sibylla's parents. A couple of the wives of the murder victims also came across as being very one-dimensional. Then there is Patrik, a fifteen year old boy who helps Sibylla - again, there is not that much to him. I can forgive this though, because Sibylla's character is good enough to carry the story.
I'll get another criticism out of the way before I start on the other positives. There is often a need to suspend disbelief when reading the story - there are a number of plot threads that I found hard to take in. Most crime fiction has this fault - story lines are often contrived and based on massive coincidences. However, with this story, I did find myself unable to forget some of the bigger coincidences - Patrik, for example, is way too resourceful for a teenager (or indeed anyone), able to get into his police officer mother's email at the police station, and to find someone who can hack into official databases. I also didn't entirely accept the killer's motive. It didn't ruin my enjoyment of the story, but it did prey on my mind while reading.
Despite this, I found the book very entertaining and hard to put down; I think partly because I wanted to know how Sibylla had ended up in her predicament, and partly because I wanted to know who was carrying out the killings. The way that these two threads were split between alternate chapters was very compelling - and the fact that the chapters were quite short meant that I often ended up reading more than I had planned to each time I picked the book up. It isn't, as I've already mentioned, the best work of crime fiction I've ever read (and I've read a lot...), but it is definitely told in a very entertaining way.
The fact that the book has been translated from the Swedish is really of little concern. There was the odd occasion when I felt that the English was a little wooden, particularly during the speeches when the author had perhaps used slang, but it didn't happen often, and generally I felt that the translator, Anna Patersen, did a great job. The fact that the story is set in Sweden really doesn't matter very much either. Of course, names of people and places are a little alien, but otherwise, it could have taken part in any part of the world.
Despite some reservations about the plot and the one-dimensional secondary characters, I did really enjoy this book. It is very easy to read and the pacing is great - there are no boring bits here. I think that anyone who enjoys crime fiction will like this book, and indeed any of the others that this author has written - I can particularly recommend Betrayal. And don't be put off by the fact that it is a translation - it makes very little difference. Recommended.
The book is available from play.com for £6.49. Published by Canongate Books, it has 352 pages. ISBN: 9781841954981
Summary: Not without its faults, but still a very entertaining read