review: Victim Without a Face (Fabian Risk #1) by Stefan Ahnhem



Thank you to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I appreciate it!

Riveting, beautifully written, razor-sharp and gory. Also impossibly long.

On chapter 85 it was like


But I stuck it out, and I’m glad I did. Much as I think this book would have benefited from careful editing, I still believe Fabian Risk is one of the better detectives to come out of the recent Scandinavian influx. Not quite on par with Carl Mork of Department Q, but I like him better than anything Nesbo has produced, for sure.

For one thing, Risk is refreshingly flawed. He’s a terrible father and husband. He isn’t a team player in the slightest. He strikes me as a bit of a player. He’s full of himself. He often does the wrong thing, just because he wants to solve the case. And yet, he’s a brilliant detective. It comes down to that, in the end.

Victim Without a Face is the first in the Fabian Risk series, and it’s a seriously promising debut. Ahnhem sets the scene well, with Risk and his family returning to his childhood city to ‘start over’. Screams for mercy haunt Risk’s sleeping and waking hours, but we never really learn what made him unable to go back to his old job. This is a good thing, really, as it means Ahnhem must want to explore these past atrocities in future novels. I love a good dark undercurrent to any hero, and Risk seems to have rivers of them.

While the mystery is well sketched and intriguing, the villain didn’t really interest me (perhaps appropriately?) What I did enjoy was the dynamics between the members of the police force, the meticulous detective work, Fabian’s character, his kids, the diary entries (horrific, sad, maddening) and the fact that two characters got the best comeuppance they deserved so mightily. Am I wrong to think they deserved to die?

Because they did.

The moral implications of this aren’t lost on me, and I believe Ahnhem wanted the audience to feel uncomfortable with their feelings about those two characters – and about many of them, really, including Risk. He isn’t above censure or judgment. None of them are, really. They all make ridiculous decisions and terrible choices – they’re human, all too human. It’s wonderful.

I highly recommend this, despite the length. I’ll be very interested to read the rest of the series, as I feel Ahnhem can only get better.


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