Review - CINDERELLA GIRL, Carin Gerhardsen
CINDERELLA GIRL is the second Conny Sjøberg book from Swedish author Carin Gerhardsen, the English title of the first book being THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE. Having missed that one when it came out in the middle of 2013, there's some catching up required.
It did seem to take a very long time for anything much to happen here. A lot of time is spent introducing the reader to two teenage sisters, living with their alcoholic mother, in less than satisfactory circumstances. Borderline neglected, these two girls are very used to looking after themselves, and some of their methods are unpleasant and could be confronting. There's a tendency, in the early part of the book, to feel this almost forensic analysis of their lives is a little too detailed, almost voyeuristic. Especially as it's not until about 20% of the way through the book that their reason for being there is clearly defined.
In the meantime, a mother has been dealing with her ill baby boy. Her struggles to settle him take her out of the apartment, which then quickly morphs into something more sinister as it becomes clear that she's not returned. And there is a very young daughter in that apartment, confused, hungry, dirty and very alone.
Eventually we have two deaths - the mother of little Hannah, although authorities don't know the little girl exists, and one of the teenage sisters. Both of these events are investigated by Conny Sjøberg's team - he concentrates on the teenager's death while Petra Westman leads the team that are trying to identify the mother, and her very ill young son.
Not having had much to do with 3-4 year old kids (and it being way too long ago to remember much of my own childhood), I've no idea if Hannah would be able to survive, albeit a bit battered and bruised, in the way that she does. But for this reader, it felt a little off. Not so the search for Hannah, undertaken by one very determined elderly lady when she receives a worrying random telephone call one night. On the one hand it wasn't at all odd that police would not be convinced by her story of that telephone call - supposedly from such a young child on their own. On the other hand, there's a further twist to that story which certainly ramps up the threat - but smacks a bit of being there just for that purpose.
The other slight disappointment about CINDERELLA GIRL is the lack of focus on Sjøberg. Nothing wrong with the Westman character at all - she was a determined and dedicated investigator, but not quite having the full story of both of them, their history and in particular, who Sjøberg is made his presence unfocused, unsure.
Both killings are eventually resolved obviously, and I suspect a lot of the issues with not quite grabbing hold of the entire story are to do with not having read the first book. CINDERELLA GIRL did leave me with a desire to do exactly that though. There was something about these two investigators that's intriguing.
When detective Petra Westman finds an unconscious child in an undergrowth, and shortly after stumbles upon the mother's dead body hidden inside a grit bin, the Hammarby Police team is shocked by the gruesomeness of this case. And the strangest thing is that nobody seems to be missing the victims . . .
But just as an investigation is launched, chief investigator Conny Sjøberg is faced with yet another murder. A teenage girl has been killed aboard cruise ship Cinderella and her younger sister will be next if Sjøberg can't uncover the killer.