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Book Review: Unwanted: A Novel by Kristina Ohlsson

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I cannot think of a topic more terrifying to any reader than that of child abduction! While a kidnapping probably has never happened to any of us, we secretly hope it never occurs to any parent, particularly when the abductor has obviously abused the child and may still be doing so.

In Christina Ohlsson’s book, Unwanted, just such horror takes place on a train traveling from Gothenberg to Stockholm. A young girl had kicked off her small shoes and fallen asleep on the seat in the train’s coach number two. Not wanting to disturb her sleeping daughter, her mother steps outside the train to make a phone call. A signaling problem on the tracks ahead holds the train detained in Flemingsberg.

Within minutes, while her mother is distracted with her phone, she realizes the train is departing. There is no way to safely catch up and climb aboard. Using good sense, the Flemingsberg station calls the train to have one of its conductors explain to the little girl what happened. Mother will travel by cab to meet her at the next station.

Unwanted! This does not happen!

After taking note that the small girl is sleeping, the conductor, upon returning several minutes later, sees that she has vanished from her compartment. Police are immediately called to search, but to no avail. Minutes drag into hours and eventually into long days for the girl’s hysterical mother, who is estranged from her husband.

Police initially think this is a simple case of a father kidnapping his daughter after a custody battle. The police inspectors assigned to the case are rather odd characters. The chief investigating inspector insists that a younger female counterpart and a second male investigator always defer to his command. Yet, the bright young woman nevertheless continues to have her own intelligent thoughts about the case.

When the missing youngster is eventually found dead, this team of investigators knows it is tracking a deranged, merciless killer. Forensics proved that his youthful victim had died “of poisoning, an overdose of insulin” (199). But now, a second child evaporates similarly into thin air. Will this investigating team eventually find this second child knowing the first was horribly murdered? Now, the team of investigators cannot help but swallow their egotistical pride and collaborate, pasting clues and events together, indicating a second child murder will certainly follow.

Unwanted is not a light read. It will stir up appalling fear and compassion that will overwhelm your imagination and sense of morality. For a first book, Kristina Ohlsson has put together a remarkable story, even though many of her male characters seem gruff, mean, and/or disturbed. I would recommend this tale to readers who like deadly, frightening tales. Although there is little bloodshed in the story, gore is certainly implied.

This is not a tale for the faint of heart. Indeed, it is frightening. It will impress in your memory a feeling of real frustration that all police and investigators endure when an investigation eventually ends in murder.

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