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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.


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