Missing by Karin Alvtegen

I really enjoyed this suspense novel, the first I have read by Sweden’s “Queen of Crime,” Karin Alvtegen.
Missing is the story of a homeless woman named Sibylla who is in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up being charged with murder.  She goes on the run, and eventually ends up trying to figure out who the real killer is.
Missing was an easy and fast read. What really hooked me initially were all the tricks that Sibylla had learned in order to survive on the streets. She is smart and resourceful in the ways she finds to stay clean, get food, and find a place to sleep at night. Sibylla notes that appearance is very important in how others judge you, and so she makes a great effort to not appear homeless. At the same time, she considers that she has chosen this life in order to be free of the constraints of society and a controlling and manipulative upper class family. Sibylla’s goal is to save up enough money to buy herself a house in the country one day, where she can live in peace, and on her own terms.
Sibylla’s choices, and the plot of the story, bring up interesting themes of personal agency and the way outsiders are summarily rejected and judged as crazy by people who conform to the current norms.
Sibylla is a sympathetic character, and the numerous injustices she has suffered in her past are disturbing in their plausibility. Despite the grim circumstances Sibylla faces, the novel itself is not depressing. Sibylla, and the curious young man Patrik who she encounters, are both inherently decent and unselfish people.
The novel wraps up with quite a bit of action and a few twists, but for me, its greatest success was the character of Sibylla herself. I was interested in following her life, and rooted for her happiness. The end of the novel was bittersweet, but mostly satisfying.
My main complaint would be that one decision that Sibylla makes in the final pages of the book seemed rather abrupt and not entirely justified.  I think perhaps that it was more of a point the author was trying to make, rather than a decision that arose organically from Sibylla’s own character development. Secondly, some legal aspects of the novel, such as the fact that Sibylla was immediately charged with murder in her absence, seemed unbelievable to me. I don’t know how the Swedish justice system works, so I’m not sure whether this was an accurate portrayal, or whether the author was just trying to create suspense and exaggerate the sense of Sibylla as a victim of an unjust world. However, in the end, the novel was so much fun that I didn’t really care. I feel excited to have discovered Karin Alvtegen as an author, and am looking forward to reading more of her work.

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