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The Chosen, by Kristin Ohlsson.

July 19, 2016

The Chosen, by Kristin Ohlsson.  Simon & Schuster, 2016.

4 stars

A complex mystery set in Sweden and focusing on the murder of children, written by an accomplished Swedish woman.

Karen Ohlsson is a political scientist who worked for the OSCE (the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), the Swedish Security Service, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before turning to full-time writing.  While her background in international security work is evident in her adult fiction, she has also written children’s books.  This is the fifth book in her series featuring police detective Fredrika Bergman and her partner, Alex Recht.  The series has garnered praise and awards in Europe.

The Chosen is set in Stockholm, Sweden, where first a kindergarten teacher and then two ten-year-old boys from the same Jewish school are murdered.  Fredrika Bergman and Alex Recht are called in to solve the murders.  A host of other fascinating characters soon appear around the edges of their attempts to sort out the seemingly conflicting evidence.  Fredrika and Alex are a generation apart in age, but they are also both parents, as are several of the other couples involved with the case. Danger to the more positive figures builds throughout the plot.  Interspersed with the chronological chapters are brief “Fragments” of the “Conclusion” indicating that more violence to families lies ahead.

Ohlsson’s narrative is complicated and interwoven, with overlapping subplots.  Yet the stories are told with clarity and the explorations of the psychology of the unusual characters seems sound.  The plot twists and turns as the search for the reality of what happened and why proceeds. The horror of the murder of children is central to the book, making it a chilling read for me.

The action occurs around a Jewish community with its own school, but Ohlsson says little about Judaism.  Anti-Semitism is quickly ruled out as a motive from the killings.  Some of the major characters are from Israel and events there are connected to what happens in Stockholm, but Ohlsson does not take sides in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.  What matters is what happened to people who lived in that region’s violence and were caught in its crossfire.

The Chosen is well-written, but too harrowing for my taste, especially with the reoccurring image of murdered children at its heart.  I suspect that others will like this book more than I did.  I am pleased to recommend it to those less squeamish than myself.

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