"Dark, disturbing, and chillingly relentless. Picture Hannibal Lecter sitting down to channel Stieg Larsson and then dial it way, way up!" —Brad Thor, #1 New York Times best-selling author of Black Ice
Sixteen-year-old Jenny Lind is kidnapped in broad daylight on her way home from school and thrown into the back of a truck. She’s taken to a dilapidated house, where she and other girls face horrors far beyond their worst nightmares. Though they’re desperate to escape, their captor foils everyone of their attempts.
Five years later, Jenny’s body is found hanging in a playground, strung up with a winch on a rainy night. As the police are scrambling to find a lead in the scant evidence, Detective Joona Linna recognizes an eerie connection between Jenny’s murder and a death declared a suicide years before. And when another teenage girl goes missing, it becomes clear to Joona that they’re dealing with a serial killer—and his murderous rampage may have just begun.
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THROUGH THE CLASSROOM'S GRIMY WINDOWS, ELEONOR watches the bushes and trees bend in the stiff breeze as dust is blown along the road.
It almost looks like a river is flowing outside the school, murky and silent.
The bell rings, and the students gather up their books and notes. Eleonor gets to her feet and follows the others out of the classroom.
She watches Jenny Lind button her jacket in front of her locker. Her face and blond hair are reflected in the dented metal.
Jenny is pretty, different. She has intense eyes that make Eleonor feel nervous, make her cheeks flush.
Jenny is artistic. She likes taking photos, and she also happens to be the only person in school who actually enjoys reading. When she turned sixteen last week, Eleonor said “Happy birthday” to her.
But no one cares about Eleonor. She isn’t attractive enough, and she knows it, even if Jenny once said she wanted to take a series of portraits of her.
It was after PE, as they stood in the showers.
Eleonor grabs her things and follows Jenny toward the main doors.
The wind whips up the sand and dry leaves along the white walls of the building, scattering them across the yard.
The rope snaps against the flagpole.
When Jenny reaches the bike racks, she pauses and shouts something. She gestures angrily and then sets off on foot without her bike.
Eleonor had punctured her tires that morning, hoping it would mean she could walk Jenny home.
They would start talking about photography again, about how black-and-white photographs are like sculptures made of light.
She has to rein in her imagination before she pictures them kissing.
Eleonor follows Jenny past the Backavallen sports center.
The seating area outside the restaurant is empty, the white umbrellas flapping.
She wants to catch up with Jenny, but doesn’t dare.
Eleonor is about two hundred meters behind her on the footpath running parallel to Eriksbergs Road.
The clouds race by above the spruce trees.
Jenny’s light hair whips around and blows back into her face as one of the Green Line buses drives by.
The ground shakes as it passes.
They leave the developed area behind, passing the ranger station. Jenny cuts across the road and continues on the other side.
The sun breaks through, and the remaining clouds cast shadows that seem to dart across the fields.
Jenny lives in a nice house down by the lake in Forssjö.
Eleonor knows this because she once came by after she found Jenny’s missing book—a book she herself had hidden. In the end, she didn’t dare ring the doorbell, and after waiting outside for an hour, she just left it in the mailbox.
Jenny pauses beneath the power lines to light a cigarette, then sets off again. The buttons on the cuff of her sleeve glint in the light.
Eleonor can hear the rumble of a big truck behind her.
The ground trembles as a tractor trailer with Polish plates thunders past at high speed.
Its brakes screech, and the trailer careens to one side. The truck turns sharply off the road and swings straight up onto the grassy shoulder, rolling onto the footpath behind Jenny before the driver manages to bring the heavy vehicle to a halt.
“What the hell!” Jenny shouts.
From the roof, water streams down the blue fabric on the side of the trailer, cutting a slick channel through the dirt. The engine is still running, and the smoke from the chrome exhaust pipes rises in thin columns.
The cab door opens, and the driver climbs down. His black leather jacket has a strange gray patch on the back and fits his broad frame snugly. His tight curls are almost to his shoulders.
He strides toward Jenny.
Eleonor stops dead and watches as the driver hits Jenny in the face.
A few of the straps on the side of the truck have come loose, and a section of the fabric covering the trailer catches the breeze, obscuring Jenny from view.
“Hello?” Eleonor shouts, moving forward again. “What are you doing?!”
As the thick fabric goes slack, she sees that Jenny has fallen to the ground and is lying flat on her back.
Jenny raises her head and gives a confused smile, her teeth streaked with blood.
The loose section of fabric starts flapping again.
Eleonor’s legs are trembling as she steps into the wet ditch. She realizes she should call the police and reaches for her phone, but her hands are shaking so much that it slips from her fingers.
It falls to the ground.
Eleonor bends down to retrieve it, and when she glances up again, she sees Jenny’s legs kicking as the driver picks her up.
A car sounds its horn as Eleonor steps out into the road and starts running toward the truck.
The driver’s sunglasses flash in the sunlight as he wipes his bloody hands on his jeans and climbs back into the cab. He closes the door, puts the truck into gear, and pulls away, one wheel still on the footpath. Dust rises from the dry strip of grass as the truck thunders into the road, quickly gaining speed.
Eleanor comes to a halt, gasping for air. Jenny Lind is gone.
A trampled cigarette and her bag of books are all that are left on the ground.