Dissolved by Sara Blaedel and Mads Peder Nordbo

Fans and critics both agree that Sara Blaedel is the queen of crime fiction in Denmark and after reading her latest stand alone novel, Dissolved, I couldn’t agree more.  Blaedel excels at taking mundane village life, which has been historically simple and idyllic, and turns it on its head with chaos and crime.  At the start of Dissolved, life is pretty quiet in Tommerup, Denmark, one of the many small towns where residents don’t feel the need to lock doors or take many safety precautions.  Everything changes when a young mother, Charlotte Laursen, suddenly and mysteriously disappears one morning after leaving the gym.  The entire town is shaken to its core.

Chief Superintendent Liam Stark and Superintendent Dea Torp are called by Charlotte’s husband after her young disabled son is left at school and he tells them that she would not disrupt his routine by neglecting this duty.  Early suspicions are on her husband, as a likely suspect, as he was the last person to see her before she disappeared.  But suspicion soon dissipates when another person turns up missing the next day.  The second victim is gone, but a ominous note is discovered that mentions Charlotte’s abduction the day before.  Stark and Torp quickly realize they may have a serial killer on their hands.

One by one, each day brings another disappearance of someone in the small village.  Every disappearance brings a clue in the form of a note which has investigators baffled.  It becomes clear that the notes are religious in nature and correspond to the Ten Commandments.  In the eyes of the serial killer, each victim has violated one of the commandments and it is the killer’s job to seek revenge, making the victim pay for committing a sin.  Stark and Torp, along with their police team, race against time in an attempt to stay one step ahead of the killer.  Their objective is to try and identify persons in the village who the killer thinks violated the next commandment and try to get to them before the killer finds them.  As the disappearances hit closer to home, no one in the village is immune.  Nearly everyone is on edge, knowing one of the victims who disappeared.  After a lucky break, Stark and Torp know exactly what is in store for the nearly 10 victims who have disappeared.  They stumble upon video footage which shows the detectives definitive evidence of their possible fate.  It is a race against time, not only to stop the disappearances, but to try to find the victims and save them from a watery grave.

If you gravitate toward Scandinavian crime and are looking for a shorter read, Dissolved is a title you may want to check out.  It has all the hallmarks of Nordic crime from one of the best selling authors in Denmark.  Dissolved  has a eclectic group of villagers – some likeable and some not – as well as an intricate plot that combines a serial killer who is consumed by religious thought.  Just under 250 pages, this stand alone novel takes you on a nail-biting journey with the knowledge that someone else will disappear and you are unable to stop it.

I love smart Scandinavian crime fiction and Dissolved is another title that does not disappoint.  I enjoyed the villagers’ differing personalities and their close knit community.  Adding the Ten Commandments as the killer’s motivation also kept the plot interesting.   When the killer’s twisted motivation is finally revealed, all the pieces fall into place.  One small critique is that the plot wrapped up a little too quickly but that aside, I am happy to recommend Dissolved.

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