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November 18, 2013

Felony of the Week: Missing, by Karin Alvtegen

This week’s special is an extraordinary book, and just in case you’re skeptical, we’re not the only ones who say so: It won the Glass Key award, given annually for the best “Nordic” crime novel, and in 2008 our edition was shortlisted for an Edgar award for best crime novel of the year. The reviews, both here and overseas, have been stunning – the Brits, for example, have likened Karin Alvtegen to “Ruth Rendell at her very best,” and the Swedish press has dubbed Alvtegen the country’s “Queen of Crime.” In the book blog world Missing has been favorably compared to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The heroine is Sybilla, who has spent the past 18 years homeless, on the icy streets of Stockholm, craving anonymity more than warmth, more than safety, more than a bed. And indeed, when she yields, briefly, to the lure of a warm bed, she invites catastrophe: A murdered man and Sybilla’s face, on the front page of every paper, as the chief suspect. Desperate to regain invisibility, her only hope lies in tracking down the murderer. It’s a story of ice, in more ways than one. And in Sybilla’s quest to lose herself, to find her home in homelessness, it provides one of the most interesting motivations I’ve ever come across.

An interesting factoid? As published in Swedish, and then in translation in the UK, the book opens with a semi-religious rant in the mind of the killer. This is followed by a terrific scene involving a scam Sybilla is running at a fancy hotel. When we were getting ready to print our edition, I got in touch with the author, and told her I wanted to switch the order of those two scenes; I thought the scene in the hotel made for a much stronger opener. She consented to the change, and I like to think that the switch played some role in the book’s earning an Edgar nomination.

Incidentally, if any of you are collectors, we do have signed first-edition hardcovers of Missing, as well as the paperbacks. While the British edition was the true first, our hardcovers are the only signed editions, and they differ from the UK edition with respect to the switch discussed above.

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