Last year I read The Bomber as part of the Transworld Book Club and whilst I had reservations, I said I'd give Annika, the main character, a second chance. I took the offer of a review copy of Vanished as a sign. At this point, I need to point out I am not reading this series in chronological order and you may very well enjoy it more if you start at the beginning.
Vanished is, chronologically, the second book featuring Annika Bengtzon and these events happen years before those of The Bomber. Annika is working as a copy editor at the Evening Post in Stockholm. It would seem that after the events of the previous book, she has been demoted because she killed a man in self defence. Bear with me here, I was rather confused at first. There's a friendly little note saying the story follows on from Exposed but the books can be enjoyed by themselves. Fair enough. Yet if you have read The Bomber (published by Corgi last year), it might make more sense to go right back to the beginning. Otherwise you'll be spending the first 100 pages working out what hasn't happened yet or what has happened but you didn't read about. Confused yet?
Once I'd got my facts straight, I did worry that it was going to focus on newspaper politics again but this does tail off after a few chapters. Whilst she might well work in a sexist environment, Annika isn't the model employee, keeping secrets and disappearing out the office without informing her colleagues. For a young copy editor I think she is very lucky to have succeeded in her job and it has nothing to do with her being a woman.
Fortunately for me, the bulk of the book deals with the mystery of Paradise, an organisation which promises to help women in need. They help these people vanish in the eyes of the world. After an initial meeting with the founder, Annika comes into contact with a terrified young woman, convinced that she is being hunted. She directs the woman to Paradise without thinking. Later, she starts to suspect that the organisation isn't quite as benevolent as it seems and worries she's sent the woman to a fraud. I found the main storyline pacey and enjoyable.
I'm not entirely sure the personal parts fitted in with the rest of the plot but again this might be caused by my reading out of order. Possibly Marklund just wanted a few reasons for Annika to have a breakdown, but she already seemed fragile to start with and adding bereavement, a horrible mother, abandonment and other personal issues seemed a bit much. She also didn't seem to be the kind of person I'd expect to fall in love in one night, let alone when she didn't like the man much a few days before. Knowing what happens in her future, I was expecting it, yet it still was all too sudden.
I have softened towards Annika. Maybe I would have been kinder to her before had I read the series from the beginning.
Vanished will be available in paperback and ebook formats from Corgi on 16th February 2012. Thanks go to Transworld for providing me with a copy for review. Please note it has previously been released in English under the title of Paradise.