Thursday, June 11, 2009

Review: Missing, by Karin Alvtegen

By Karin Alvtegen


Missing, by Karin Alvtegen, is a psychological thriller published for adults that will entrance teen readers as well. Missing is perfect for teens for two primary reasons: 1) The central mystery alternates with flashbacks to the heroine’s teen years and 2) the heroine, Sybilla, resolves Missing’s unique mystery with the help of a 15-year-old schoolboy.

Sybilla Forsenstrom lives on the streets in Stockholm, a life she has chosen since escaping an emotionally-abusive mother, neglectful father, and a stint in a mental institution. Every so often, Sybilla cleans herself up, dresses in a professional suit, and charms wealthy businessmen into buying her dinner and a room of her own in a fancy hotel. One night her luck runs out: a traveling businessman, who treats her to dinner and books her a room in Stockholm’s nicest hotel, is murdered and brutalized during the night. Sybilla becomes the prime suspect and begins a life on the run.

Sybilla’s run from the police becomes more complicated as three more men are murdered—in locations she’d never visited. One night, while living rough in the attic of a school, she meets a schoolboy named Patrick, who believes in her innocence, only because the fourth man was murdered when they were sharing the same attic space. (Patrick wanted to experience “living rough.”) Together they figure out who really committed the murders and set out to clear Sybilla’s name.

Sybilla’s life on the lam is interspersed with vignettes from her childhood and teen years. The cold horror and loneliness of her childhood provide insight into Sybilla’s fascinating character and her choice to live on the streets as an adult. Missing moves along at breakneck speed and is perfect for a rainy afternoon or an (enforced) family trip.

(Cautions: There is one sexual encounter in Missing Sybilla is reluctant to participate in, but it is also one that makes sense within the context of the story and her life on the streets.)

By Karin Alvtegen
Translated by Anna Paterson
Felony & Mayhem Press (New York)
2009 paperback edition
Copy purchased.