Published: January 1, 2017
An ordinary outing takes Greta, Alex, and four-year-old Smilla across Sweden’s mythical Lake Malice to a tiny, isolated island. While father and daughter tramp into the trees, Greta stays behind in the boat, lulled into a reverie by the misty, moody lake…only later to discover that the two haven’t returned. Her frantic search proves futile. They’ve disappeared without a trace.
Greta struggles to understand their eerie vanishing. She desperately needs to call Alex, to be reassured that Smilla is safe, or contact the police. But now her cell phone is missing too. Back at her cottage, she finds it hidden away under the bedsheets. Had she done that? Or had someone else been in the cottage? But who, and why? As Greta struggles to put the pieces together, she fears that her past has come back to torment her, or she’s finally lost her grip on reality…
In this dark psychological thrill ride—with more twists than a labyrinth and more breathless moments than a roller coaster—Greta must confront what she’s always kept hidden if she has any hope of untangling the truth.
Like a lot of thrillers, this book is told POV (point of view) style from an unreliable narrator–in this case, Greta, a young Swedish woman. Greta is on vacation with her boyfriend, Alex, and his four-year-old daughter, Smilla, staying in a cabin in the woods. They decide to take a boat across the appropriately named Lake Malice to an island. Greta waits on the boat while Alex and Smilla explore the small forested space, but as it grows dark, she becomes concerned when they don’t return.
This is a very small island–not the sort of place a grown man and a child can hide. And no one else is coming or going. So where the hell did Alex and Smilla go?
I was pulled into the mystery immediately but as the book unfolds I became absolutely addicted. It turns out Greta has a complicated past–she tells us her father disappeared, too. And Greta isn’t behaving like I’d expect someone to given the situation. She isn’t calling the police, but rather is searching herself while becoming increasingly untethered.
I can’t say more about this book without ruining it, but I will say that it offers some excellent “Not Sorry Not Sorry Female Rage”, as well as reflection on the relationships women have with their mothers. Trigger warnings need to be issued for depictions of domestic violence and animal abuse (the latter happens off screen).
The Missing is a dark, dark book, but a deeply satisfying one.