reviewed by Carolyn Scott
Journalist Heloise Kaldan is in the middle of a medical appointment with Dr Jens Bjerre when he receives a phone call to tell him his ten-year-old son Lukas is missing from school. Dr Bjerre had dropped him at his Copenhagen school in the morning, but no one is quite sure when he was last seen after that, so he could have been missing for up to eight hours.
Erik Schäfer and Lisa Augustin from the Violent Crimes Unit are called in and immediately organise a widespread search of the area around the school. However, no sign of him is found and no one recalls seeing a boy fitting his description. Alarm bells really start ringing the following day when his bloodstained jacket is found in a nearby moat.
Originally published in 2018 in Danish, The Collector has now been translated into English but retains a very Danish flavour and atmosphere. The novel follows on from the first book in the series, The Corpse Flower, where we first met Heloise Kaldan and her good friend Erik Schäfer, but would also read well as a stand alone mystery.
This slow burning mystery ramps up as the hunt for Lukas continues and Schäfer tries to work out if he’s been abducted or has run away. Secrets are uncovered and it soon becomes clear that not everyone is who they seem to be and not everything is as people have seen it. Lukas has an unusual neurological condition called pareidolia where he sees faces in inanimate objects and collects images of them. Kaldan believes that the last image he posted of a barn door may be a clue to where he is and she is sure she has seen that door before herself.
The plot unfolds from the points of view of both Kaldan and Schäfer. Kaldan wants the story for her newspaper and can be quite forthright in pushing Schäfer for information and following her instincts without regard for her personal safety, such that he often has to hold her at bay. Other threads are woven into the novel, including Kaldan’s difficulties in her personal life and the article she is writing on returned soldiers with PTSD. It’s an intriguing read with an unexpected ending and should appeal to fans who enjoy Nordic noir that isn’t too dark.
With thanks to Crooked Lane Books via Netgalley for a copy to read.