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MISSING
by Karin Alvtegen
Canongate International, June 2003
249 pages
9.99 GBP
ISBN: 184195408X


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Swedish author Karin Alvtegen's English language debut is a fine psychological mystery/thriller. Sibylla Forsenstrom is a homeless drifter who occasionally cons men into paying for meals and luxury hotel rooms. The scam goes horribly wrong when the man who paid for her room is found murdered and mutilated, and when a second man dies soon after then Sibylla becomes the most wanted criminal in Sweden. The police are content to lay the blame on their most convenient suspect and somehow Sibylla must find the real killer to clear her name.

The plot is surely instantly familiar to crime fiction fans, but where Alvtegen excels is in creating a haunting yet engaging character portrait of a homeless person, her history, and the hopes and dreams that remain. A series of flashbacks gradually reveal Sibylla's troubled and disturbing childhood and her reasons for escaping to homelessness. The present day scenes alternate between the hope that Sibylla still retains for her future and the despair at her situation, and the result is an unexpectedly well rounded and memorable character. The plot might be clichéd, but the character is anything but.

I would have liked a better sense of place in Missing. Stockholm and Sweden were present in occasional small touches, but overall the setting could have been anywhere. Perhaps the translator could be partially to blame for the almost British feel to much of the book, but this was still the most readable translation of a crime novel that I've come across. Anna Paterson is an award winning translator and her skill shows in the flow of the narrative.

I must commend the publishers for the quality of their production, this trade paperback edition looks and feels lovely, and Canongate are obviously, and justifiably confident of Alvtegen and Patterson's ability to gain an audience in the crowded marketplace. A translation of Alvtegen's other novel is scheduled for publication in 2004, and will be high on my looking-forward-to list for next year.

Very highly recommended.

This translation is by Anna Paterson

Reviewed by Paul Richmond, October 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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