Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Review: After She's Gone - Camilla Grebe

After She's Gone
(Hanne Lagerlind-Schon #2)
by Camilla Grebe
Translated by Elizabeth Clark Wessel
Published February 26th 2019 

A woman vanishes in the middle of the night, leaving behind a diary that may hold the key to finding her--and to solving the murder she was investigating when she disappeared, in this thriller from the writer at the "front rank...of Nordic noir" (Kirkus Reviews).

5 Stars

After a horrifying experience in her teens Malin has become a police officer, determined to help people and use it as a way to leave her small town behind for good. When a task force is set up to clear old cases she is called back to Ormberg and the case that changed her life forever. Just a few days into revisiting the case of the dead child never claimed, Peter, an investigator, goes missing, and Hanne, a psychological profile and his partner, is found wandering, her diary missing and her memory gone. Malin must pair up with the lead detective and the obnoxious local to find find Peter and solve an old crime that never should have gone cold. The only clue they have is a young woman in a sparkling dress, but Ormberg is a classic small town and the person in that dress is terrified to come forward and admit who they really are. As they read Hanne's diary though, the one left on the ground when she was picked up, they find they must help even if they must risk everything.

Told from the perspective of three protagonists, After She's Gone follows Malin, Hanne, and young Jake as a cold case comes roaring back to life. While the old murder and active crimes make up the majority of the novel, I truly believe this is a story about identity. I ached for Jake as he fought for what he believed to be normalcy among his broken family and against a town filled with hate. He holds the key to the answers, but in his youth fails to see the importance of the diary he found. Risking the truth is too much for him and I think it was a powerful exploration into self worth and how the things we are taught can influence someone even when they know what is right. Malin is desperate to leave her hometown behind once again, regardless of her mothers deteriorating condition and the knowledge of the area only she can offer to the others on the task force. The novel explores the past that has shaped her, the future she imagines, and her innermost thoughts as she faces the difficult task of finding her missing teammates and recognizing the biases she still holds about the town. Finally, we have Hanne, an incredibly famous psychological profile with a well-kept secret, dementia is taking her memory away one day at a time. Her diary holds all the answers and it was so incredible that Hanne's chapters were really the diary and that as readers, we, along with Jake, knew the answers but were unable to help Malin with them.

The three are faced with a horrifying crime, one they thought was long forgotten, but is now seeping into the town and their lives once again. After She's Gone is the kind of book you read with a notebook beside you, ready to write down any hint or thread of truth. There's so much going on in the novel, but Camilla Grebe ties it all together quite nicely. Not only is there traditional crime, murder and kidnapping, the novel also touches on crimes of life, such as prejudices, refugees, and the hate one experiences for their sexuality, their beliefs, for their mental state. I found the chilling tale, set in the dark woods of fictional Ormberg, Sweden, fascinating and I could not put it down.

While I did not read the first novel in the Flickorna och mörkret #2 series, I do think After She's Gone read perfectly well as a standalone. Camilla Grebe provides plenty of information for you to know the characters and I never felt as though a story from the previous novels carried over. The novel, while fictional, reads quite like a true crime novel and the town is very much like any small town today. I could picture the characters and the setting and I could feel the emotions that rolled from the characters like waves. Camilla Grebe has given us a novel with a strong narrative that is relatable and terrifying all at once.

About the Author
CAMILLA GREBE is a leading Swedish suspense writer, having published two previous successful series with co-authors. In 2015 she broke out as a solo author with the critically acclaimed psychological thriller The Ice Beneath Her. It was followed by After She’s Gone in 2017 which was awarded the prize for Best Swedish Crime Novel and the prestigious Glass Key, for Best Nordic Crime Novel from 2017.

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