Brought together by a brutal murder, a psychological profiler who’s lost her memory and a teenage boy with a fiercely guarded secret become unwitting, unlikely partners in this race to stop a killer—“Nordic noir at its best” (Booklist, starred review).
Named the Best Nordic Crime Novel of the Year by the Crime Writers of Scandinavia
Out of the frozen depths of a forest in Ormberg, Sweden, a woman stumbles onto the road. Her arms are covered with scratches, her feet are bare, and she has no memory of who she is. Local police identify her as psychological profiler Hanne Lagerlind-Schön, who, with her partner, had been helping investigate the cold case of a young woman’s murder. Hanne begins to recover but cannot recall anything about where her partner is, or what their investigation had uncovered before her disappearance. Police have only one lead: a young woman in a sequined dress who was spotted nearby the night Hanne was found.
The young woman doesn’t come forward because she doesn’t exist: Jake Birgersson, a local teenager, had been out walking in his mother’s dress and sister’s makeup, his secret shame and thrill. Terrified of discovery, Jake hid and watched Hanne get into a car, leaving behind her diary.
Reading Hanne’s notebook, Jake realizes that it contains the key to a major breakthrough in the case—but turning it in would mean admitting the truth about who he is. When another murder victim is found in the woods, Jake realizes that Hanne herself is in danger, and his only choice is to find and warn her so that together, they can stop the killer before he strikes again.
Praise for After She’s Gone
“[A] stellar crime novel . . . Grebe delivers an unflinching, heart-wrenching message about the plight of refugees in this scorching thriller.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
Camilla Grebe was born in 1968 in Alvsjo, Sweden. She holds a degree from the Stockholm School of Economics and was a co-founder of the audiobook publisher Storyside. With her sister about Åsa Träff, Grebe has written five celebrated crime novels, the first two of which were nominated for Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year. Grebe is also the co-writer of the popular Moscow Noir trilogy.
Read an Excerpt
My name is Jake. I’m named after Jake Gyllenhaal—one of the best actors in the world. It’s supposed to be said in the English way, but most of my classmates say it wrong on purpose. They call me Yake or even worse, Yakuh, exaggerating the Swedish pronunciation. It makes me wish I had another name, but there’s not much I can do about that. I am who I am. And my name is my name. Mom really, really wanted me to be named Jake, and Dad did what Mom wanted, probably because he loved her more than anything else in the world.
Even now that Mom is dead, it’s as if she’s still with us in some way. Sometimes Dad sets a place for her at the table, and when I ask him a question it takes him a really long time to reply, as if he’s trying to figure out what Mom would say. Then comes the answer: “Sure, you can borrow a hundred kronor” or “Okay, you can go to the movies, but be home by seven.”
Dad almost never says no to anything, though he’s gotten a little stricter since TrikåKungen, the old textile factory, was turned back into housing for asylum seekers.
I’d like to think it’s because he’s kind, but Melinda, my big sister, says it’s because he’s too tired to say no. When she says it it’s usually with a meaningful glance at the empty beer cans on the kitchen floor, then she smiles crookedly and blows a perfect smoke ring, which slowly rises toward the ceiling.
I think Melinda’s being ungrateful. I mean, she’s even allowed to smoke at home. Mom never would have allowed that, but instead of being thankful, she says stuff like that. It’s ungrateful, unfair, and, above all, unkind.
When Grandma was still alive, she used to say her soninlaw probably wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but that at least we lived in the prettiest house in Ormberg, which is something. I don’t think she realized I knew what a sharp knife was, but I did. In any case, it was clearly okay to be a dull knife as long as you had a nice house.
Ormberg’s prettiest house lies five hundred meters from the highway and goes straight into the forest, next to a creek that flows all the way to Vingåker. There are two reasons the house is so nice: first, Dad’s a carpenter, and second, he rarely has any jobs. That’s lucky, because it means he can work on the house almost all the time.
For example, Dad’s built a huge deck around the whole house. It’s so big you can play basketball on it or ride your bike. If you really got a good start, and there wasn’t a fence, you could jump straight into the creek from the short side. Not that anyone would want to do that—the water is ice cold, even in the middle of summer, and the bottom is full of sludge and seaweed and slimy, disgusting worms. Sometimes, in the summer, Melinda and I blow up an old air mattress and float down the stream to the old sawmill. The trees lean over the creek, making a ceiling of green lace, like the tablecloths Grandma used to knit. When you’re on the creek, the only thing you hear is birds, the rubbery squeak of the air mattress, and the rushing sound of the little waterfall that flows into a pond near the old ironworks.
When my grandfather, whom I never met, was young, he worked at the ironworks, but it closed long before Dad was born. The dilapidated building was burned down by skinheads from Katrineholm when Dad was my age—-fourteen—-but the blackened ruins remain. From a distance, they look like fangs sticking up between the bushes.
Dad says that everyone had jobs in Ormberg back then: either on a farm, or in the ironworks, or at Brogrens Mechanical or at TrikåKungen. Now, only the farmers have jobs. All the factories closed, and the jobs moved to China. Brogrens Mechanical stands silent and abandoned, a skeleton of corrugated sheet metal on flat land, and the castlelike brick building of the TrikåKungen textile factory has been converted to refugee housing.
Melinda and I aren’t supposed to go there, even though Dad normally lets us do whatever we want. He doesn’t even seem to think about what Mom would have said either, because the answer comes in a flash if we ask. He says it’s for our safety. What exactly he’s afraid of is unclear, but Melinda always rolls her eyes when he brings it up, which makes him angry, and they start talking about caliphates, burkas, and rapes.
I know what burkas and rapes are, but not caliphates, so I’ve made a note of it to google later—-I usually do that with words I don’t know. I like words, especially hard ones.
I like collecting them.
That’s another secret I can’t tell anyone. You get beaten up for less in Ormberg, like listening to the wrong music or reading books. And some people—like me, for example—get beaten up more often than others.
I walk out onto the deck, lean against the railing, and stare out over the creek. The storm clouds have thinned out and exposed a sliver of blue sky and an intense orange sun just above the horizon. Frost, which makes the wooden deck look hairy, glitters in the last rays of sunshine, and the creek flows by dark and sluggish.
The creek never freezes—because it’s always moving. You could swim it the whole winter, but of course nobody does.
The deck is littered with branches that blew down during the storm late last night.
I should probably gather them up and throw them onto the compost pile, but I’m hypnotized by the sun, hanging there like an orange just below the edge of the clouds.
“Jake, come inside, for f*ck’s sake,” Dad shouts from inside the living room. “You’ll freeze your ass off out there.”
I let go of the railing, stare at the perfectly shaped wet imprints where my hands just lay, and go back into the house.
“Close the door,” Dad says from the massage chair in front of the huge flat screen.
Dad lowers the volume with the remote and looks at me. A wrinkle appears between his thick eyebrows. He runs a freckled hand over his bald head. Then he absently moves his hand to the massage chair’s control panel, which no longer works.
“What were you doing out there?”
“Looking at the creek.”
“Looking at the creek?”
The wrinkle between Dad’s eyebrows deepens as if I’ve said some hard words he doesn’t know, but then it’s as if he decides he doesn’t care anymore.
“I’m going to Olle’s for a while,” he says, unbuttoning the top button on his jeans to make room for his belly. “Melinda made some grub. It’s in the fridge. Don’t wait up for me.”
“She promised to be home by ten.”
I nod and go out to the kitchen, grab a Coke, go up to my room, and feel butterflies in my stomach.
I’ll get at least two hours to myself.
It’s dark when Dad leaves. The door slams so hard that my windowpanes rattle, and after a moment the car starts and I hear him drive off. I wait a few minutes to make sure he’s not coming back, then I go to Mom and Dad’s bedroom.
The double bed is unmade on Dad’s side. On Mom’s side the blanket is stretched neatly across the bed and the pillows stand perfectly fluffed against the wall. The book she was reading before she died still lies on the nightstand, the one about the girl who gets together with a rich guy named Grey. He’s a sadist and can’t fall in love, but the girl loves him anyway, because girls like when it hurts. At least that’s what Vincent says. I find it hard to believe—I mean, who likes getting whipped? Not me, anyway. I think the girl probably likes Grey’s money, because everybody loves money and most people would do anything to get rich.
Like take a whipping now and then or give a blow job to a disgusting sadist, for example.
I walk over to Mom’s closet and pull the mirror door aside. It sticks a bit and I have to give it a shove before it glides open. Then I run my hands over her clothes: sleek silks, sequined dresses, soft velvet, tight jeans, and wrinkled, unironed cotton.
I close my eyes and swallow.
It’s so beautiful, so perfect. If I were rich, as rich as that Grey, I would buy a walking closet or whatever it’s called. I’d fill it with handbags for every occasion, every season, hang them on special hooks, and my shoes would be lined up on their own shelves with special lighting.
I realize, of course, that’s impossible. Not just because it costs tons of money, but because I’m a guy. It would be totally preposterous to get a closet full of women’s clothes. If I did, it would truly prove I’m a freak. That I’m worse than that weirdo Grey—because it’s okay to hit women and tie them up, but not to dress like one.
At least not in Ormberg.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.5/5 stars Please Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way. Most of the time, I get advance copies of books through services such as Netgalley or Edeilweiss. So I was surprised when I got a request directly from a publisher to review this book. I looked up the description on Goodreads and was intrigued. I've been wanting to read more crime mysteries. This book had some of the same elements that hooked me on the novels of Louise Penny: a flawed police detective, a small town full of interesting characters, and of course, a murder. Even though this is a darker version of the crime novel, I was still thoroughly entertained and excited to find out who the murderer was.
3.5 Stars First things first, I am not a big fan of scandi-noir so that could colour my judgment of the novel - preconceived prejudices and all that. However, this novel does not read like your typical scandi-noir so either the author writes in English or the translator has done an absolutely epic job on this one - I really am not sure which but I could find no reference to a translator so assume the author has written the thriller in English but given it a Scandi setting (in this case the fictional Ormberg in Sweden). It still fulfills all the other necessary criteria though - bleak setting, an almost eternal winter and the pulling together of several seemingly unlinked people to a circle of murder. The plot itself is almost secondary to the character studies in the book. To be honest I found this to be a bit of a detriment to the book as it seems to take ages to make any progress in the cold case, the disappearance of Peter or the "fresh" murder of the older woman in the same location as the cold case they are investigating. There are plenty of stop offs to discuss the nature of refugees and how the societies they move in to perceive them. The decline of towns and villages due to the loss of industry. The nature of mental illness through dementia, loss of a loved one and gender issues. The story centres around three main protagonists. Malin, a police officer brought up in the declining town of Ormberg who has to return to investigate the cold case of a child found buried beneath a stone cairn (a body she happened to find as a teenager). Jake, a teenager struggling with his sexuality, his bullying, the loss of his mother to cancer and his mentally absent father. Hanne, a criminal psychologist (as best I can tell) who is fighting against dementia but is still called in to help solve the cold case. The only bits I really enjoyed where those that followed Jake. His character is sensitively drawn and apart from one or two bits where his actions do not match up with what we are told about his character he is the most rounded person in the book. Hanne and Malin are more or less both pretty one dimensional and defined by their disease and their upbringing respectively. I found the book quite hard to really get into and my mind had a habit of wandering off as I read. The procedural bit is tamped right down with just the odd flash of investigative technique, mostly they seem to go on hunches and gut feeling rather than actual evidence. It was large parts each character soul searching and naval gazing with little bits of crime thrown in.
Camilla Grebe’s Sweden is a chilling place to be I read this in Swedish ages ago(the second in the “Girl in the Dark” series and I didn’t make the connection doh!) and so when I started to read this, I shivered a bit as I remembered how dark and chilling it was. It doesn’t lose any of the chill factor in the English let me tell you. It’s the skill of the translator that some parts seem even darker! A young female cop returns to a small town she was so desperate to flee. She tells one part of the story. The other, is a fourteen year old boy through a journal he finds. This technique works well and as they describe the same set of people over different time lines, a worrying and haunting picture builds up… There’s a lot of threads to this and characters pop in and out so don’t read it too fast and once those threads start to tie up…it paints quite the picture. There’s a body, a missing policeman, a characters with memory loss and a traumatized young boy. Plus someone found wandering around in her bare feet. There is something very strange going on in this town of Omberg ( just as well it’s fictional!) As well as this crime and mystery thriller, part of the plot centers around a refugee house and the issues and prejudices this can cause. Malin, the police officer is forced to change her view on what she thinks of the whole affair and what an ending! Camilla always places you at the heart of the story and the landscape she describes and this is no exception
After She’s Gone was named Best Swedish Crime Novel for good reason—realistic characterizations, a compelling mystery, and a haunting setting. Swedish Police Detective Malin is called back to her rural hometown to investigate the murder of a five-year-old girl. Ironically, Malin found the girl’s skeleton eight years earlier when only a teenager. Malin is part of a five-person homicide team. Two of its members disappear. When one, Hanne, crawls out of the freezing forest without coat or shoes, she can remember nothing of what happened. She was last seen with her boyfriend Peter, who is also on the team. However, Peter is still missing. Only cross-dressing teen, Jake, has seen Hanne emerge from the forest. He also picked up a book she dropped on the road. But he is afraid his secret will come out if he goes to the police. After She’s Gone alternates between Malin and Jake’s viewpoints. Hanne’s diary also sheds a light on her thoughts before her disappearance. I enjoyed the many twists and turns. The reveal at the end totally blindsided me. The book is highly recommended to dark thriller fans. 4 stars! My only question is, “How are Scandinavian countries consistently rated happiest when their environment, and their fiction, is so cold and dark?” Thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
This book was such a great crime novel! Not only was it easy for me to read and follow along, but I did not have a hard time getting into it like I do with other crime books. I can see why this was named the Best Nordic Crime Novel of the Year by Crime Writers of Scandinavia-it is totally deserving of that award.
I loved Camilla Grebe’s first novel, “The Ice Beneath Her” so it’s no wonder I loved this second in the series. It’s not necessary to read one to enjoy the other, but you’ll recognize some of the investigators if you do. Camilla’s novels are a prime example of why I love to read. I can travel anywhere, walk into the homes, listen to their conversations and basically live in a foreign country without ever leaving the comfort of my chair. In this instance, we traveled to the village of Ormberg in Scandinavia. Granted a lot of the town’s description is based on the new local policewoman, Malin’s opinion, which is very negative, desolate and colorless. This doesn’t mean the town actually looks this way; this exemplifies Malin’s discontent with her current status as an officer and a resident of her old hometown. The police are searching for a missing investigator, Peter, who was last seen with his partner, a criminal profiler, Hanne Lagerlind-Schoen, who was found at the edge of the woods bloody, disoriented and shoeless. She is slowly losing her memory to Alzheimer’s, so she says she’s not able to tell anyone where she last saw Peter. To complicate things, a woman’s body is found near the same location, and there’s proof that Hanne was there. Jake is a young teenager who lives in town and attends the local school. He’s perceived as weak and somewhat feminine, and he’s forever questioning himself and his character. But as times get tough, we see the true nature and strength that Jake is capable of. Jake has in his possession a diary that sheds light on who may have killed the stranger in the woods, and as he reads thru someone else’s confessions, he must either turn a blind eye or confess to his role in the mystery. This is a well-plotted and fast-paced read with some disturbing personalities. I strongly recommend Ms. Grebe’s new novel. (I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thank you to Ballentine Books for making it available.)
I seem to be reading a lot of police mysteries/thrillers that are set in Finland/Sweden/Iceland lately. I don’t know why I am drawn to them, but I am. It is a combination of fascination with how their laws work and the culture. The first 30-35% was slow. I don’t like books with slow beginnings. But, in this case, it worked. This plotline needed to be built up. I needed to read about what happened to Malin and Jake. I needed to see what formed them into the people that they were. I also needed to read about what was happening to Hanne through her diary. Once all the backstories were explained, then the ball started rolling. And man did it catch momentum. Jake was the character I connected with. He had a lot of turmoil over the past year and kept to himself. It was his secret and what he thought about himself because of it that hurt my heart. His character growth came when he started to read Hanne’s diary. He related to Hanne and started to care for her. Not going to give anything away but Jake was the true hero of the book. He came to accept himself for what he was. His actions at the end of the book broke a cold case wide open and released secrets that were long buried. I didn’t care for Malin. While she was a great detective, I didn’t care for her on a personal level. Her dislike for her fellow team member had no reason. She didn’t like him. I did agree with Manfred that she was racist. She protested way too much throughout that scene. She wasn’t a sympathetic character. Even with everything that was revealed at the end, I couldn’t help but go “Oh well” when it happened. I felt awful for Hanne. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be losing my memory. Especially if I had a job where my memory has to be sharp. Hanne’s confusion and sadness came across the pages. I understood why she needed the diary. To be honest, I thought that Peter was drugging her at one point in the book. His secretiveness (or what Hanne perceived to be) was suspicious. I also wondered if she was going to remember everything that happened to her. I thought that the plotlines were well written. I got involved with the mystery behind who the woman was and how she could be related to the girl found 8 years earlier. The author did a fantastic job of pointing out latent racism. The resentfulness that people had against the refugees could have been pulled from the headlines. Same with the bullying that Jake endured. I was surprised at the end of the book. I wasn’t expecting the “bad guys” to be who they were. It was a twist that came out of nowhere. I was thinking how Malin and her partner picked up was the killer. Also, the confession was chilling. Talk about no remorse. I was also surprised at how Malin was tied into what happened. Again, a twist that I didn’t see coming.
“After She’s Gone” is an awesome suspense-filled crime thriller. It has an interesting, intricate plot and true to life well developed characters with twisted motivations. I enjoyed reading this book. It was full of tension, suspense and interesting twists and turns all way to the end. Advance reader copy was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.