The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

I just finished reading the Danish version of Law and Order: SVU.

This is obviously a novel which is a part of a series, but only three out of the eight books featuring Louise Rick have been translated into English. Despite the alluded to back story, you don’t need to know all the past details to enjoy The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel. Louise has just switched jobs from the Homicide Department to the newly started Special Search Agency. Her first case involves the accidental death of an unidentified woman with a distinguishing scar who was walking through the woods after dark and stepped into a ravine. The investigation leads into familiar territory, Hvalso – Louise’s hometown from “days back when” – a place that she has purposely avoided. Besides her frustration in the search to unearth the secrets surrounding this mysterious woman, Louise also has to deal with a past which continues to haunt her, cringing whenever she meets people from her younger days, (just in case they mention the trauma she refuses to address). Her partner, Eik, has demons of his own which cause him to smoke and drink to excess.

As an aside, I had quite a few private laughs while I read this book. The names struck me as amusing, such as the men in Louise’s life – Mik and Eik (in my mind they rhyme). Then there is the scene where Louise introduces herself to a woman who answers, “Bitter”. I thought Bitter was an expression similar to “hello”, but, in fact, it was a first name. After I got over the unfamiliar words, the small town of Hvalso seemed typical of close-knit communities, with just a few quirks to remind us that the setting is Denmark and not the United States.

Back to the plot – the investigation broadens as several cases seem to indicate one common perpetrator. Louise and Eik, with help from Mik, set out to discover what is really happening up in the secluded woods and why women are disappearing or showing up viciously raped and/or murdered. As in any good mystery, there are numerous misdirections, so just as we think we know who is guilty, we get a clue which indicates another suspect. Drama ensues.

Central to the theme is a mental institution which had some shady practices prior to its closing. Much of this information is based on true events although this particular center was fictional. However, the setting was based on locales familiar to the author.

As the book wraps up, an unexpected incident occurs with references to disturbing events from Louise’s past which make her rethink everything she formerly believed to be true. The reader doesn’t get any answers to her questioning thoughts, just an urge to pick up the next book in the series.

An easy read which has a quick pace and some unexpected twists. The ancillary characters add a little substance to the story and are obviously a part of prior plotlines. Any strangeness is due to the locale (Europeans just give off a different vibe than Americans), but the translation is credible. I can see why Sara Blaedel is popular in Denmark, although this is not the next “Great Danish Novel”. Three and a half stars.

A thank you to Netgalley and Grand Central Publishing for this free ARC, with the expectation that I will write an honest review.

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