Skip to main content

After She's Gone by Camilla Grebe: A Scandinavian thriller makes for a chilling read

Image by Tommy Takacs from Pixabay
Whether you call it Nordic Noir or a Scandinavian thriller, After She's Gone by Camilla Grebe does the job of creating that icy, chilly, somber mood that fans of this region's fiction love.

Ever since Stieg Larsson's iconic Millenium series came onto the scene, I have been fascinated with Scandinavian thrillers and books by non-Scandinavian authors that provide the same experience. After reading all of the Millenium books, I next read Tom Smith's brilliant novel, The Farm, where an adult son has to figure out which of his parents is lying to him about the other's intentions. It's a riveting novel that continues to linger in my mind as one of my most memorable reads.

Although I enjoy American thrillers such as Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn and British thrillers like The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and anything by Clare Mackintosh, there's something about thrillers set in Sweden. Maybe it's the setting itself, but you can feel the chill seeping into the pages as you read. There are secrets and shameful things that have been covered up in the most seemingly cozy places.

After She's Gone is written in multiple narratives. When we begin the novel, Malin is a teen growing up in Ormberg, Sweden. Crazy dumb in love with her boyfriend Kenny, she discovers a dead body in the woods one night. Now, in the present day, Malin is a cop investigating cold case murders. Although she grew up in the Ormberg, she can't wait to finish the case and get out of the town she tried so hard to forget.

Jake has a secret he wants to hide -- he likes wearing girl's clothes. Although he's the only person who witnessed a particular incident in the woods, he is hesitant to go to the police with what he knows because the cops are looking for a woman wearing a sparkly dress -- not a teenage boy. Jake decides to investigate on his own using the diary he found in the woods that night. If he has to go to the cops he will -- but only if it's necessary.

Hanne is a psychological profiler who was called to Ormberg to help with the cold cases, too. One night, she stumbles out of the woods, barefoot and badly hurt. She can't remember what happened and her partner is missing. We learn about Hanne's story through a diary that Jake finds in the woods the night he encounters her. Maybe if Hanne could find her diary, she would remember what happened.

So there's a lot going on here as you can see. On top of the well-rounded characters, the town of Ormberg is fascinating, as well. It's a small town with one employer that closed, causing many people to lose their jobs. Yet the government has chosen to make it a refugee resettlement town, and the townspeople resent and fear the refugees. It's a dynamic that works to heighten the mystery and creates an aura of distrust as the crimes occur and fingers are pointed. But it also gives the novel a certain weight as we see this town wrestle with social issues that much of the world is thinking about in the news. Who is dangerous and who is to be trusted?

After She's Gone is a riveting read and definitely kept me turning the pages to see what happened next. I also felt a connection to the characters. Malin, in particular resonated with me. She was perfect example of someone trying to fight against the place she was born and yet finding that it's impossible to do so.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Riley Stearns' The Art of Self-Defense (2019) Movie Review: Do NOT Talk About Night Class

In 1999, David Fincher directed the book to movie Fight Club, a dark stylized comedy about a group of men who form a "support group" of sorts called Fight Club, where they pair up for no holds barred unarmed first fights with one another. Organized by the charismatic Tyler Durden, for a time, the meetings seem to be a good thing. Things start to spiral when the hero realizes Tyler is no good and must be stopped.

In many surface ways, The Art of Self-Defense is quite similar. Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) walks around like he is apologizing for taking up oxygen. He lives alone with his dog and works at a boring, thankless job as an accountant. One day, Jesse is attacked on the street by some unidentified motorcycle riders. He's hospitalized for his wounds and takes some times off work.

On a walk around town, he overhears a karate class and goes into observe. He feels intrigued and inspired by what he sees and decide to sign up for classes. He hopes that he can "become wha…

Ali Abassi's Border (2018): A Dark Swedish Fairy Tale

Have you ever felt like you are alone? Like you exist and move around in a community of people that you are nothing like?

Imagine how Tina feels. She works as a highly competent border guard for the sole reason that her sense of smell is extrasensory. She can smell fear, shame, and any negative emotion on people as they cross through her security area, and she is never wrong about her suspicions. Her work career, however, might be the only thing she has going for her.

She lives on the outskirts of town with a boyfriend that owns a pack of dogs, and from all counts, they live together in a loveless domestic arrangement that is hard to imagine either of them conceiving. Things become a little clearer later as we learn that Tina owns the home and the boyfriend is enjoying the luxury of living rent free. Tina appears to have no family except for the man she calls father, who claims to have adopted her.

Tina is unattractive by human standards and is most often seen staring attentively and …

Alfonso Cuarón's Roma (2018) A Window into the Life of a Working Class Woman

For every person who keeps their hands clean and smooth from doing heavy duty manual labor, there are people who work thanklessly in the background, making life comfortable for those few. This is the subject of Roma, a film set in Mexico City with original screenplay written in Spanish. Roma takes one of those hardworking people and brings her front and center.

Cleo is the housekeeper of a middle-class family in the 1970s. She cleans the house, cleans the dog poo off the house entrance, brings the family tea, and serves them at mealtime. Cleo comes across as diligent, hardworking, sweet, shy, non-demanding, and loving. The children seem to adore her. She is a constant in their lives, and they treat her as one would expect a person who demands or expects nothing in return. At times, she’s like wallpaper. Other times, they are affectionate with her and desire her attention.

There isn’t much plot to this movie. Cleo does have some romantic adventures and deals with an unexpected pregn…