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Danish title: De Glemte Piger
Author: Sara Blædel
Translator: Signe Rød Golly
English Publisher: 2015 Grand Central Publishing
Danish Publisher: 2011 People’s Press
312pp. 9781455581528. $26US, $29CAN
Mystery, crime, detective, suspense
Available in print, eBook, and audiobook
Why I Read It
I saw it on the processing desk at the library and was intrigued by the cover. I haven’t branched out in the crime fiction genre beyond J.D. Robb, and the story seemed interesting. I think what really hooked me was the possibility of gaining a little insight into the history and treatment of patients in mental insitutions. That the story takes place in the present and near past made it all the more intriguing. Full disclosure: I find asylums creepy.
While investigating a missing persons case, Louise Rick must confront her past & secrets of her hometown.
Louise Rick, star of at least four other Blaedel books, has become the technical manager of the Special Search Agency. Read: she’s the head of missing persons. It’s her first case in the new position, and it has already proved to be a stumper. The woman was found dead in the woods four days prior and no one has stepped forward to claim/identify her. Louise, along with her Eik Nordstrøm, a good cop but a smoker and a drunk, decide to put the woman’s photo out in the media. The hope is that someone will recognize the distinctive scar on the woman’s face.
Someone does, an older woman who used to be a patient care assistant at a boarding house/mental institution for the mentally disabled, Eliselund. Eliselund still stands as a day center, so Louise and Eik investigate. In combing the patient records in the archives of the old building, they discover that the dead woman, Lise, had a twin, Mette, with both girls being called Lisemette. They also discover that both girls died thirty years ago, but that’s not possible.
Louise must travel in and around her hometown, Hvalsø and Avnso Lake, as this is where Lise was found, as well as the site of many other crimes, including cold cases of sporadic rapes and murders that have been collecting dust in the National Police records. She will come face to face with parts of her past that she has buried under twenty-one years of work, most significantly the suicide of her lover, Klaus.
Secrets come to light, proving that even the most idyllic landscape can be home to terrors.
Here’s what I think
The Forgotten Girls is already a bestseller outside of the US. Grand Central Publishing bought the rights to publish this and two other titles from Blaedel, making The Forgotten Girls the first in a trilogy about Louise Rick. Why, Grand Central? Why would you do this to me? It’s not that I didn’t like The Forgotten Girls; I did. I liked it all the way up to the completely unnecessary sex scenes. Who puts out of narrative sex scenes in a crime novel? Louise and Eik have sex, but there isn’t enough story to support them having sex.. They’ve only just met, and it feels like Louise doesn’t even like Eik that much. Yes, they’re partners and they have to trust each other. However, nowhere did I read a line that even hinted at a sexual attraction. What the what?!
Once I got past that part, the story continued to go well. The primary mystery gets solved by solving the secondary mystery, which is wicked and twisted in good and bad ways. The tertiary problems of Camilla Lind feel out of place. Why should I care about her? She feels flat as a character and her issues are superfluous to the main story. She does get some good information that Louise would not have gotten in her limitations as a cop, but that doesn’t feel like enough to justify her character being as big a part of the story as she was. Admittedly, that could be more an issue with jumping into an established series than character, but I’ve nothing else to go on. The Forgotten Girls is the first Blædel title published in the United States. This issue comes up again and again as there are many references to past experiences, relationships, and agreements between Louise, Camilla, and other characters. What does not get solved in this novel, the mystery of Klaus’s suicide, will most likely play out over the next two books.
The translation from Danish to English is handled very well. It is unnoticeable and seamless in the way that only a bi- or multilingual native speaker could produce. In an interview promoting the release of The Forgotten Girls, Blædel has said she is pleased with the way the translation came out. It never feels stilted or hampered by the various Danish proper nouns, and even has some American staples thrown in, like Beyoncé and Sprite.
Fair warning: This book does contain mentions of rape, incest, and attempted rape.
It held my attention, and was a fairly quick read. A few problems along the way, but still a good read. I want to know more about the dangling mystery of Klaus, so I’ll probably read the next novel. Crime fiction readers will want to try this one out.
4Q–Better than most, marred by occasional lapses.
3.5P–Broad general or genre appeal.
Readalikes, courtesy of NoveList Plus
Until Thy Wrath Be Past, Asa Larsson
Indian Bride, Karin Fossum
Black Lies, Red Blood, Kjell Eriksson
Fast-paced, compelling, bleak
Book talk ideas
Meeting Eik, p.15
The Forgotten Girls, p.84-89
Louise attempts to visit the cemetary, p.132-133
Book discussion questions
1) Blædel admits to taking liberties with reality, however, she makes valid points about the nature of mentally disabled care and coping. Do you believe stories like the forgotten girls could actually happen? Why or why not?
2) Louise goes through a lot physically and emotionally in this novel. What do you think of her decision not to seek professional help? Do you think it will affect her future in missing persons? Do you agree with her decision?
3)What do you make of Mrs. Parkov’s devotion to her son, knowing that he raped her daughter, the neighbor’s daughter, and eventually Mrs. Parkov herself over the course of several years? Do you believe Bodil had a responsibility to her mother and brother?
4) The Forgotten Girls brings up several mental health issues and ways to deal with them. Do you feel that anyone made the “correct” decision or were they all victims of time and circumstances? Why or why not?
Clues to the Future
crime fiction, missing twins, mental institution, Louise Rick, Camilla Lind, Sara Blædel, The Forgotten Girls, Jørgen, Eik
Awards and Lists
#1 International bestseller
Links to the Author, Interviews, and Reviews
Authore website: http://sarablaedel.hbgusa.com/
Bolo Books Interview: http://bolobooks.com/2015/02/sara-blaedel-the-bolo-books-interview/
Publisher’s Weekly Review: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-4555-8152-8