the forgotten girls

The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel 

Just once - once, damn it! - I want to read one of these mysteries wherein the detective isn't berated, stymied, threatened, or prohibited in their investigation by their boss. Just once, I would be so impressed if the man who hired the person to do the job he has entrusted them with would actually just trust the person to do the damn job. 

At least in many of these police procedural-type mysteries, the protagonist is being condemned because what they want to do is dangerous or wildly outside the bounds of procedure or the law. In The Forgotten Girls, Louise's boss stops her shortly after the investigation begins to demand that she close the case - when evidence is just emerging that the victim could have been murdered or, at the very least, was declared dead by a medical examiner and subsequently disappeared thirty years earlier. His demand that she close the case is inexplicably unmotivated (other, apparently, than to be a foil for her) and would, I would have to assume, be somehow extremely derelict or possibly criminal.

And if you consider that a spoiler and you'd like to read this novel without any spoilers, you definitely shouldn't finish this review because there are definitely more spoilers below. 

This is the seventh in a series starring the detective Louise. Blaedel does a commendable job of providing just enough backstory so that a reader (i.e. myself) who hasn't read the previous novels in the series can generally understand what's going on but without overwhelming with unnecessary information.

Although I have to wonder if Louise is the same stereotypical insecure-female protagonist in the previous novels as well. She's supposed to be strong and independent and I presume she's found herself in tough situations before but when a new fellow employee, in the second sentence of their very first meeting blatantly sexually harasses her, she slowly backs away and then is so relieved when her new bad-boy (alcoholic, of course) partner intercedes to say, "She's mine." Instead of saying to her harasser, "Fuck you, asshole, where do you get off?" and then turning to her partner to say, "And how in the hell am I yours?" she is, instead, thrilled that her partner is her "rescuer" and then nods politely to the harasser and "flees". 

And then, of course, despite her new partner being a disgusting asshole who smokes every chance he gets and is drunk off his ass most of the time and invades her personal space, she easily has sex with him after the first time he bothers to ask if it's okay that he smoke in her presence and touches her back. 

All the character's actions are qualified; they can never just say something, they must "burst out" with it.

Lots of people disappear. As in, not just the victims in the main mystery but also just random people from the past who probably don't have any bearing on either the current mystery or a future one; just if there's some character at some point apparently it makes them more interesting if they've just disappeared. There must be some sort of vortex in Denmark. 

In one of the final scenes, the bad guy decides to rape Louise and while he's brutalizing her and getting ready to rape her, she says his name in alarm, but then never cries out otherwise. There are other people nearby enough to help her if she screamed but, inexplicably, she doesn't. When he stuffs her blouse in her mouth to keep her quiet I felt like laughing because it was entirely unnecessary up until that point. 

After the brutal attack (during which, despite freshly broken ribs and her "agonizing pain", Louise manages to attack and strongarm another massive and disgusting man who probably killed her boyfriend decades ago), Louise's doctors at the hospital give her references to a psychiatrist which, of course, she immediately throws away. Because she's a strong, independent woman who can take care of herself, remember? Again, just once I'd like to see one of these detectives actually do the responsible and healthy thing and take care of themselves (especially since they always have someone else - in Louise's case, a foster son - that they're taking care of on top of their brutal and stressful detective work). To claim that therapy is just useless or that talking to a therapist implies weakness, just shows the character's weakness... or stupidity.  

I will say that the essential mystery in The Forgotten Girls was engaging, and I was compelled to keep reading to figure that out. If I've read any other mysteries set in Denmark recently, I haven't marked them as such, and the setting felt novel (though more of a feel for the culture might have been appreciated). I'm deeply suspicious that an action taken by Louise in the final catching-the-bad-guy scene would ever, ever be taken by an official detective, regardless of their culture or the situation, not because she's rebelling against the system but because there was no perceivable beneficial result from her actions for anyone involved. 

I was provided an advanced copy of this novel by Grand Central Publishing (an imprint of Hachette). I am typically excited about and satisfied by novels coming from Hachette but this one was a miss for me.