Enigmatic psychologist Sebastian Bergman returns in another gripping crime novel by writing duo Michael Hjorth and Hans Rosenfeldt. As well as being authors, they’re both accomplished screenwriters in Sweden and their work has been successful internationally (Rosenfeldt is the creative force behind Marcella and The Bridge). Fans of Scandinavian TV dramas and clever thrillers will love The Man Who Wasn’t There.
Riksmord, Stockholm’s renowned homicide experts, have a very disturbing case on their hands after a mass grave is discovered on a mountainside. Judging by the decomposition of the bodies, they’ve been buried there a while. They’ve evidently been murdered by a professional killer, and the most disturbing part is that two of the bodies are young children. With almost no evidence to go on, the Riksmord team are stretched to their limits.
As Riksmord work on their investigation, grieving widow Shibeka tries to get to the bottom of her husband’s sudden disappearance in 2003. Her husband Hamid and his cousin Said disappeared in strange circumstances, and she has resorted to trusting a journalist to find answers because the authorities haven’t listened to her concerns. The disappearances are connected to those corpses on the mountainside and the answers are being concealed by Säpo, the security police. The few people who end up breaking past Säpo’s defenses are dealt with severely. Will the truth ever come out?The strongest element of the book is that there are lots of characters telling the story, so there’s a lot to keep up with and it’s suspenseful from start to finish. It can be disorienting when points of view are switched rapidly, but it’s enthralling to have different people revealing parts of the mystery and not knowing how the clues fit together.
Admittedly, some of the personalities are less compelling than others. Sebastian in particular is more of a stereotype than a person; he’s the archetypal womaniser who manipulates and mistreats others because of his dark past. He’s somehow able to charm everyone despite having no likeable qualities at all and doesn’t have enough charisma to be at the centre of the series.
Also, Sebastian’s ex-girlfriend Ellinor is an overused cliché. She becomes dangerous and unhinged when Sebastian unceremoniously kicks her out of his flat, which is unoriginal and too predictable. Having said that, she actually plays a great part in the drama overall and provides a shocking ending.
The Man Who Wasn’t There is one of those books you can’t go into too much detail about because it’s too easy to give away spoilers. However, I can guarantee it’ll keep you on the edge of your seat.
The Man Who Wasn’t There is published by Century on 16 June 2016.