Book Review: Victim Without a Face by Stephen Ahnhem



Two gruesome murders have shocked the Swedish town of Helsingborg. The first victim, a thug who liked using his fists, died with his hands sawn off. His sidekick, a fan of steel-capped boots, was crushed feet-first by a JCB. Both men were bullies in the same class at school. Is someone serving justice after thirty years?

The killer leaves no trace behind. But for lead investigator Fabian Risk, the lack of forensic evidence is not the only problem. He too was a student in that class – which makes him both a potential victim and a potential suspect…


“In contrast to kindness, which has to be taught, nurtured, and developed, evil existed naturally from birth and grew more cunning throughout the years”

I had high hopes for this book before I started it. Bagged it for a mere 99p on Kindle and it had hundreds of excellent reviews, not to mention it’s a Bestseller in Sweden. I liked the premise of this novel, I thought it brought a certain uniqueness to the detective “gritty” crime drama genre. So you can only imagine my disappointment as I started to read it and felt it simply fell flat on it’s face. To begin with I simply felt that the mystery and thrill of the serial killer left me wanting more and I honestly wasn’t all that interested in this book until things finally started getting interesting at around the 50% mark.

I am happy to inform you, though, that this ended really well in my eyes! It was fast paced and most definitely a page turner. I was reading this late into the night when I knew I really should have been getting a good night’s rest.

I do have a couple of issues with the story, though.

1. Leaving 14 year old Theo at home. My mum would have never left me alone for a few days straight while I was 14 with absolutely no contact with another human.

2. The killer’s motivation. It seems very unlikely if you ask me.

Fabian Risk, fucking awesome name, was a bit of a difficult character to like. Obviously, he’s a worn down detective with issues on his back and has a troubled work related past but he’s also just kind of a twat. Not only does he neglect his wife and children, he also just thinks too much of himself and likes to go off and do his own thing too much. Who cares about rules? So long as I do what I want to do, I don’t give a shit about anyone else. I’m Fabian Risk and I’m always right. I mean, yes, he’s a good detective, but you don’t need to be a dick about it Risk.

Someone who pissed me off more than Risk, though, was Lilja. What was her problem? Why did she have to be so snarky and sarcastic all the time? Go take that stick outta your arse Lilja, and lighten up. And can someone please tell me what Risk’s “love” for Lina had to do with the rest of the novel? It didn’t bring anything to the story at all and I can’t imagine it’s going to be followed on in one of the other books either. ALSO, I’m assuming the Niva business will be explained at some other point in the series cause that was another ‘um, what’ moment for me.

This book was translated from Swedish, so I’m not sure if it was simply a problem in the translation or whether it was simply written this way, but it felt a little clunky in places. Eg ”…grabbing him as he was about to lose his balance and looked like he might pass out at any moment”… do you see what I mean? That’s the sort of sentence I might have written in an English essay back in year 9…

Despite my small complaints, I thought the climax of the novel was really well built, though the actual ending left me feeling a little dissatisfied…. But I would definitely like to read more of the Fabian Risk series if they are translated into English.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Book Details:

Pages: 608
Edition Published: 
2015, Head of Zeus
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Goodreads Av. Rating: 3.94

One Reply to “Book Review: Victim Without a Face by Stephen Ahnhem”

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