Missing by Karin Alvtegen

Missing (1)The thing I liked best about Karin Alvtegen’s novel Missing is the main character.   Missing’s narration is focused on  Sybilla, who has become the prime suspect in a murder she did not commit.

When we first meet Sybilla, she is trying to con a meal from wealthy businessman in a hotel bar.  Sybilla, we learn, is a young homeless woman, still together enough to wealthy older men, but not for much longer.  Sybilla has been living under the radar for many years.  Her only goal is to pass unnoticed  while she saves up enough money to buy a small house in the north away from as much human contact as possible.

Sybilla charms her mark, gets him to pay for her dinner and a room for the night without having to sleep with him.  The next morning she leaves the hotel and goes on her way, unaware that the man his been murdered in his room, his organs removed afterwards, and that the police want her for questioning.

Sybilla gives the novel two levels of dramatic tension: will she escape from the police and how did she end up where she is in the first place.  Ms. Alvtegen moves her narration from Sybilla’s present to her back story so that both plot lines develop plenty of tension.  She also presents occasional first person glimpses of the killer in the act as more victims pile up.

Sybilla provides and interesting outsider’s perspective on life in Sweden much the way Smilla in Peter Hoeg’s Miss Smilla’s Sense of Snow did for Denmark.  Missing holds together much better than Hoeg’s novel which broke down in the ending in my view.   While Sybilla does take on the role of detective in the final third of the novel which was something of a stretch, I was able to accept this as believable.  It certainly didn’t deter the pages from turning.

I’d like to find more by Karin Alvtegen.  Missing deserved its Edgar Award nomination for best novel of the year.

Missing was translated from the Swedish by Anna Paterson.