Review published on August 26, 2017.
Tove Alsterdal’s The Forgotten Dead has been translated in to English and it is easy to see why this thriller won Swedish Crime Novel of the Year. Alsterdal has broken away from the Swedish, Scandi backdrop and scenery, even though a Swedish female does appear and Sweden does appear, to America, France, Spain and Portugal. While the setting is in more sunnier climes the thriller is just as dark as you would expect and want, and is a highly addictive thriller set in the dark underbelly of Europe’s dark secret, people smuggling, and ‘illegal’ immigrants.
Patrick Cornwall almost won the Pulitzer Prize, but that put his name out there as one of America’s top investigative reporters. He has set himself the task of trying to garner the big prize in American journalism and knows he will really have to dig deep. His latest project is to investigate the plight of migrants trying to start a new life in Europe, some of whom never reach the shores of Europe. His desire is to expose the people smuggling, the corruption that runs at the highest levels of society.
Ally Cornwall, Patrick’s wife, is a set designer for theatres across New York and has just discovered she is pregnant. She wants to get in touch with Patrick and let him know the good news, but he is incommunicado and even his editor does not know where he is. Her last phone call was a rushed affair as he had to dash off to a fire.
A package arrives for Ally at the theatre she is working at and it is from Patrick, telling her to keep it hidden, and she slowly becomes concerned about the welfare of her husband. She raids their savings and flies out to Paris, the last place she knew her husband was. The more she delves into Europe’s dark underbelly the more she realises how much of an evil web he has been trying to expose… and the more she realises that the criminals running this web will go to any extent to keep their secrets and profits hidden, and human life is considered cheap.
As Ally heads from Paris to Lisburn and then on to Spain, she seems to be chasing shadows, at the same time as putting herself and her unborn child in danger. Ally, as she discovers what is happening, is worried that she will not be believed in spite of the evidence that has been found. More importantly, will she be able to find Patrick?
This is an excellent crime thriller. Tove Alsterdal has managed to condense a complex subject into a captivating story and asks all us Europeans to look a little closer at what is happening. This shows that trafficking people is highly profitable especially when their lives are so cheap. The Forgotten Dead will keep you engrossed from beginning to end. Take a step in to the darkness, will you be able to escape?
Paul Diggett 5/5
The Forgotten Dead by Tove Alsterdal
HarperCollins 9780008158989 pbk Aug 2017
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