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by Mari Jungstedt
Doubleday, January 2008
256 pages
10.99 GBP
ISBN: 0385612745

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Mari Jungstedt’s new mystery, UNSPOKEN, is the second in a series of novels focusing on Detective Superintendent Anders Knutas and the Swedish island of Gotland. In the first book, UNSEEN, readers are introduced to the inspector and to newsman Johan Berg, who has developed a working relationship with Knutas, which carries over to this story. Happily, UNSPOKEN, even though being part of a series, stands on its own as a complete and captivating story.

The book first begins with the brutal death of former news photographer Henry 'Flash' Dahlstrom. Dahlstrom has become an alcoholic and no longer works in the news business, instead taking on part-time carpentry work around the island. His death comes after a significant win at the local race track, giving credibility to the theory that he was killed for the money, most likely by one of the seedy characters within the community in whose circle Dahlstrom now travels.

Just as Detective Superintendent Anders Knutas becomes embroiled in the Dahlstrom murder case, 14-year-old Fanny Jansson goes missing. Fanny works at a local stable, and when a coworker from the States leaves the country, all suspicions move in that direction.

The unlikely turn in the case comes when pictures of Fanny turn up in Dahlstrom’s dark room, while his death is being investigated. As the two separate stories become entwined, author Mari Jungstedt’s novel becomes even richer in drama and pathos. Readers come to feel and care about both of the main characters in this story, as well as feeling Inspector Knutas’s frustration as he is stymied at every turn, while detectives from the mainland are brought in to 'help.' The only distraction in this penetrating novel is the side story of Johan Berg, the TV news reporter who seeks to follow the cases closely, but not necessarily because of their news value (Berg is having an affair with a Gotland woman).

Still, it’s easy to overlook the distraction of the Berg case. As readers, we know that the clues must be on hand, but they are so well hidden and doled out so effectively that nothing can sideline the essence of the story – two senseless murders of people who seem to have lost their way. That readers come to care about these fictional characters so deeply is testament to Jungstedt’s talent as a writer.

Although this is a short book, the characters that grace Jungstedt’s pages are larger than life, and readers will feel they understand the victims and inspector well. What remains UNSPOKEN is powerful indeed.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, December 2007

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