Sunday, 24 March 2013

Unwanted - Kristina Ohlsson

Unwanted is the debut from former Swedish anti-terrorism officer Kristina Ohlsson.  One might assume it would therefore be a thriller; instead it is a fairly mundane police procedural about a psycho-killer on the loose.  As the cover implies, it has been designed to cash in the post-Killing wave of Nordic Noir.  And, to an extent, it has its own Sarah Lund in the shape of Fredrika Bergman, a civilian police detective (we can but assume they exist) with a mildly idiosyncratic love-life.

Now Fredrika might make an interesting protagonist.  Unfortunately the concept of protagonist seems to have passed Ohlsson by, along with the time-honoured tradition of describing what our main characters look like.  What we get therefore is a team which is not actually a team: leader Alex Recht, who we are told is a legend but never does anything to warrant legendary status, Fredrika, and traditional low-grade plodder Peder Rydh, who has the traditional troubled homelife.  Peripheral team members are glossed over as if their first name is sufficient.  Some aren't even that developed.

The poor quality of technique is a shame because the idea is a good one.  It would be better if, when the psycho is finally cornered, we had any meaningful insight into his psychology.  Personally, given we get stream-of-consciousness from various associated characters, I would have included some from his well-warped perspective.  Instead we get an overlong epilogue in which we are told what happened next for our police friends - I for one didn't care and would have left things as near the climax as I could.

The writing itself is functional, which is all it needs to be.  There are a few typos and some sloppy proof-reading (in the ebook version, anyway), which again smacks of the quick cash-in.

All in all, interesting enough to warrant trying the second in the series, Silenced, which came out in English last month (the third, The Disappeared, is due out in August).  I would consider the ebook, I would certainly borrow from the library, but I wouldn't dream of buying the full-price paperback.

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