The Killing Forest


By Sara Blaedel

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$22.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 11, 2016. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Sara Blaedel, author of the #1 international bestseller The Forgotten Girls–which was roundly praised as “gripping” with “uncompromising realism” (Washington Post) and “tautly suspenseful” (BookPage)–returns with the thrilling next book in her series featuring police investigator Louise Rick.

Following an extended leave, Louise Rick returns to work at the Special Search Agency, an elite unit of the National Police Department. She’s assigned a case involving a fifteen-year-old who vanished a week earlier. When Louise realizes that the missing teenager is the son of a butcher from Hvalsoe, she seizes the opportunity to combine the search for the teen with her personal investigation of her boyfriend’s long-ago death . . .

Louise’s investigation takes her on a journey back through time. She reconnects with figures from her past, including Kim, the principal investigator at the Holbaek Police Department, her former in-laws, fanatic ancient religion believers, and her longtime close friend, journalist Camilla Lind. As she moves through the small town’s cramped network of deadly connections, Louise unearths toxic truths left unspoken and dangerous secrets.

“Crime-writer superstar Sara Blaedel’s great skill is in weaving a heartbreaking social history into an edge-of-your-chair thriller while at the same time creating a detective who’s as emotionally rich and real as a close friend.” —
“One of the best I’ve come across.” — Michael Connelly

“Sara Blaedel is a force to be reckoned with. She’s a remarkable crime writer who time and again delivers a solid, engaging story that any reader in the world can enjoy.” — Karin Slaughter

“Will push you to the edge of your seat [then] knock you right off….A smashing success.” — BookReporter

“Blaedel delivers another thrilling novel…Twists and turns will have readers on the edge of their seats waiting to see what happens next.” — RT Book Reviews



He hesitated before grabbing the dead chicken his father held out to him, its white feathers peppered with blood close to where its head had been chopped off. Sune had always hated blood, the smell of it and the intense, dark color when it flows and forms a pool.

He couldn’t let his father see his disgust. Not today. It would have been easier if his mother had come, he thought. He blinked a few times. She was dying. He had sat beside her bed almost all day. The worst was the IV; he couldn’t stand to look where the needle entered her hand, even though a Band-Aid covered it. She had been asleep when his father said it was time to go.

For several months he had been looking forward to the initiation; to the ritual and party. Many times he had tried to imagine what it would be like to leave the house as a child and return that same night as a grown man. At least he would be considered a man, with the responsibilities and rights of one. Everyone else in his class had already gone through confirmation. But as an Asatro, a believer in the old Nordic religion, Sune had to wait until he turned fifteen to confirm his belief. Today was the day.

He dropped the chicken into the bucket his father had found in the laundry room, then set it on the floor mat on the vehicle’s passenger side. Getting in, he sat scrunched up with his feet on the seat. His father had packed the white van with all the necessities for the midnight sacrifice; Sune had brought along two small gifts to the gods. One symbolized his childhood, the other his future. For the former, he’d decided on a book he’d grown up with, but he found it incredibly hard to part with the worn-out edition of Winnie-the-Pooh, its spine held together by tape. His mother had read it so many times that the pages had begun falling out. The choice of the book had irritated his father, who’d suggested a soccer ball. But his mother sided with Sune.

He would also be parting with the big pocketknife his father had given him. Sune hoped the gods would reward him with courage and strength in his adult life, even though he had no plans to become a butcher like his father and grandfather before him. He just hadn’t been able to think of anything better. And his father had been pleased.

Sune would also receive a gift, one that would nudge him in the right direction. His father, Lars, had gotten a butcher knife. Lars hadn’t been particularly adept at reading or writing, so after his initiation he had left school to enter an apprenticeship under his own father. Sune had heard about a boy who received an airline ticket, with orders not to return until he stopped being a mama’s boy. He never came back.

Sune hoped for a silver chain with Thor’s hammer, which symbolized their Nordic belief. Wishing for the chain was actually his father’s idea. As the van turned onto a narrow forest road, his father asked him if he was ready. To which Sune smiled and nodded.

He spotted the torches and bonfire in the distance. Twilight was falling, and the night sky threw dark shadows down between the trees, highlighting the fire, which was golden and inviting. Flames from the torches danced in the dark. His chest tingled when he saw that the others had arrived early to prepare everything for him.

Tonight the sacrifice would be in his honor. For the first time, he would join the men’s circle. As far back as he could remember, Sune and his parents had met in the forest with the other Asatro. He loved the atmosphere, the great feasts held after the adults prayed to the gods, but had never been part of the circle. Until now he’d been under no obligation. After tonight, though, he would be forever bound by his vow. The circle could only be broken by animals and those too young to understand it was holy. Usually he was sent with the other children to play behind the enormous bonfire site, with strict orders not to interrupt unless one of them was seriously hurt.

From now on he would be a part of the circle that called on the gods. He would participate when the drinking horn made its rounds, and as thanks for his initiation he would offer up the chicken to the gods, confirming his Nordic belief. During the past few months they had been going through all the rituals. His father had told him about the oath ring and impressed upon him that when you swear on the ring, you make a promise to the gods that cannot be broken.

He thought about the pig lying in the back of the van. At the end of the ceremony, it would be killed, its blood given as a sacrifice: the family’s thanks to the gods for accepting him.

His father led the way to the bonfire, around which torches formed a ring a few meters out from the flames. It resembled a fortress. The silence suddenly felt awkward to Sune; it didn’t help that the men solemnly lined up and hugged him. He wasn’t sure what to say. He didn’t dare smile, didn’t want to look childish. The gothi slipped his robe on, and silently the men gathered around the fire. The gleam of the torches screened off the forest.

Now, Sune thought. It’s happening. In just a few moments, I’ll be a man.

He’d thought that the gothi would take charge, as he normally did when the adults formed the circle. But his father stepped forward instead, his head slightly tilted, and smiled as he looked at his son.

“Sune, my son,” he began, sounding a bit self-conscious. “Tonight you’ll begin your life as a man. You’re no longer a child, and there’s a lot you have to learn.”

A few of the men cleared their throats; a few coughed.

Sune recalled the saga of Signe, King Vølsung’s daughter, who sent her sons out into the forest when the oldest was only ten. Neither of them had been found brave enough to survive. The dark forest frightened even Sune, and he was fifteen. He’d never been particularly brave—he knew that. For a moment he thought about his mother again.

“Happy birthday, son,” she’d said when he’d brought breakfast to her bed that morning. She didn’t eat much anymore; most of her nourishment came through a tube. But she had smiled and taken his hand. “Are you looking forward to what’s going to happen tonight?”

Now his father pushed Sune into the center, and the gothi began to sing as he slowly walked around the circle. He stopped at every point of the compass to call on a god. At north, Odin, the greatest of the gods. At south, Thor, the protector of mankind. At east, Frey, the god of fertility. And at west, Frigg, Odin’s wife, who symbolized stability in couples and marriage.

“The circle is closed,” the gothi declared when he returned to his place.

Should anyone later have asked, Sune doubted he could have repeated what he’d been told during the ritual. The drinking horn was passed around several times; he’d remembered to turn its tip toward his stomach and lift it carefully to his mouth, to avoid creating a vacuum and splattering the mead all over his face. His father had taught him that this was the sign of a newcomer to the circle. His cheeks reddened from the bonfire and the strong fermented honey. He felt groggy as the men stepped into the circle, one by one, to recite a verse for him. Several had chosen lines from the Hávámal, and he also recognized a few passages from Vølven’s Prophecy, but soon the words were jumbled up in his head.

Once all the men had spoken, they sang for him. Sune lay his gifts to the gods on the ground. The drinking horn made the rounds again, then the circle opened. Several of the men yelled and lifted him up, and again they all hugged him.

Unlike the ritual, he later remembered every second of the magical time when he was sworn into the brotherhood. He stood at the bonfire as the other men gathered a few meters away under the enormous sacrificial oak, which was over a thousand years old. As a child, Sune had loved hopping into and out of the hollow part of the broad trunk while waiting for the ceremony to end. This evening, the hole looked like a black eye staring at him in the near-darkness. Chills ran down his spine, though not in a bad way. On the contrary. He didn’t feel the least bit afraid.

The gothi dug up a section of peat and stuck it onto two flexible limbs, which were raised and bowed to form a narrow entryway. Sune had always been fascinated by the saga of Odin and Loke, the pact that made them blood brothers. Now he was a part of the same ritual; walking under the peat with the others symbolized their shared rebirth.

Everything happened in slow motion once his father took his hand. The gothi walked right behind, and when Sune came out on the other side, the moon seemed to shine directly on him. He knew it was his imagination, but the feeling was powerful. And even though he feared the moment when they took turns cutting themselves to spill a few drops of blood where the peat had been dug up, it wasn’t terrible.

He was then given a bronze spoon with a long, broad handle that looked like a ladle, only heavier. Sune felt a surge of courage and pride as he was told to mix the blood on the ground. Then the gothi freed the peat from the limbs and covered the blood with it to seal the pact. They stomped the peat into place as Sune was pulled back into the circle. He felt like a man when the gothi declared that he was now bound by the vow to honor and safeguard the others.

“We look after each other,” his father had explained when Sune asked him what it meant.

Sune stayed behind when his father walked to the van. He wanted to sneak away, to get out of watching them slaughter the pig.

“Won’t you help unload everything?” the gothi asked.

He’d taken his robe off. He pointed at the bonfire, where several white coolers from the butcher shop, containing the food for the celebration, had already been hauled in. Luckily they wouldn’t be eating the pig, Sune reminded himself. It would only be butchered and hung up so its blood ran down on the ground, a pool of liquid for the gods. The carcass would be brought home and cut up the next day, which was against the food administration’s regulations. But what they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them, as his father always said.

“Raise the hook!” his father yelled from the van, and two men trotted up with three heavy iron rods, sticking them into the ground by the sacrificial oak, forming a tripod held together at the top by a large iron ring. They fastened a butcher’s hook onto it, and his father backed the white van all the way up to the tripod, shut the engine off, hopped up into the back of the van, and began pushing the pig out. He’d already anesthetized the animal before loading it; it weighed a goddamn ton, his father had said on the way there.

Sune still didn’t understand why his father hadn’t just shot it in the head with the bolt gun. Then he wouldn’t have had to go through all this. He hated the thought that they hung it on the hook alive, and cut its throat.

He turned his back and continued unpacking the food. The mead was gone, though there were several cases of beer. The men were already soused from the ceremonial drinking. Sune looked around for a cola but found none. Apparently no one had been thinking along those lines.

“Ain’t it about time for the kid to get his present?” someone yelled from the other side of the grounds.

It was too dark for Sune to see who had yelled. He glanced around, searching for his father.

“Damn right it is,” another voice answered.

Suddenly everyone disappeared and he was alone at the bonfire, wondering what he should do. A car door slammed somewhere in the forest. The men appeared as a group now.

At first Sune thought they’d brought his mother as a surprise, mostly because of the long, loose hair he saw. He couldn’t make her out until they were close to the bonfire. It was a young woman, much younger than his mother, but older than him. His father stood at the back, his hands in his pockets. Sune felt uneasy, and he began walking toward him.

“Stay right there,” the gothi said.

The men stopped between the bonfire and the old oak, where the white van was still parked with the back door open.

“We’ve brought you a present.”

Sune had never seen the woman before. He looked down at the ground. He didn’t understand; he didn’t know what to do.

“Your father says you spend all your time reading books,” the gothi said. “We intend to change that.”

A raw laughter rose up from the men.

Earlier that evening he’d felt butterflies in his stomach, but now they were slowly turning into a knot.

“Tonight you will honor Freya and perform the fertility ritual.”

The gothi nodded tersely at the woman. She walked toward Sune, the men gathering in a half circle behind them.

“This will strengthen your manhood,” the gothi continued. “And manhood is our gift to you.”

Sune looked up and shook his head. He tried to catch his father’s eye as the woman began unbuttoning her black blouse. She smiled at him as she tossed it on the ground, signaling to him to come closer. But he couldn’t move.

Her hair spilled down over her shoulders, radiant in the darkness with the bonfire’s flames glowing behind her. He tried to look away, but he couldn’t tear his eyes from her naked breasts. It was the first time he’d ever seen a woman’s body in the flesh, the first time he’d trembled this way. She unzipped her black skirt and took another step toward him before letting it fall to the ground.

Sune continued staring at her breasts. He couldn’t look her in the eyes now that she was standing naked in front of him. He sensed that a few of the men were growing restless. The woman ran her hands over her naked body and stepped in closer to him, so much so that her fragrance sent a jolt into his groin. She spread her legs slightly; her hips began to sway as if they were dancing. He felt her unbutton his pants and heard her pull his zipper down. Bewildered now, he tore loose and stumbled a few steps back. Before he got any farther, a hand gripped his arm.

“You’re staying right here, boy!”

Sune looked at the men closing in around them.

“Get down to business now,” the gothi snarled.

The forest darkness seemed to descend and cover him. For a moment all was quiet in his head, as if sound had ceased to exist. He swiveled around, desperately seeking a way past the naked woman and the wall of men looming over him.

He caught sight of his father. Sune wanted to run to him, but his body felt like a lead weight. Before he could move, someone from behind pushed him so hard that he almost fell. The men’s voices returned as he tried to wrestle free, but whoever held his arm wouldn’t let go.

“Fuck her!” someone yelled.

“No! I don’t want to!” Sune screamed.

The young woman stepped back and leaned over to pick up her clothes.

Immediately one of the men was at her side. “You’re not going anywhere,” he said, ordering her to get back over to Sune.

“No one should force the boy if he doesn’t want to,” she said. When she made a move to put her skirt back on, she was punched in the face.

“You’ll do what we paid you to do.” He punched her again, and a thin stream of blood ran out of her nose.

Before Sune could react, two strong hands pulled his pants down and dragged him over to the woman.

“You get that dick of yours up and get to work!”

“No, I don’t want to,” he whined, shaking his head. His lips were quivering, his cheeks stretched out; he lost all control and began to cry. He bit his lip in a desperate attempt to stop the tears while his father, right beside him now, spoke into his ear.

“Do it, boy. Don’t make a goddamn fool out of me.”

The young woman rushed over and shoved his father. “Leave him alone!” she screamed. “You can’t force him to do this if he doesn’t want to!”

The arms holding Sune relaxed for a second, just long enough for him to pull his pants up and sprint into the forest, away from the bonfire’s flames, the torches, and the men. He didn’t stop until he was dizzy from the blood pounding in his temples. He leaned over with his hands on his knees and spit on the ground. He gasped for breath as sweat ran cold under his shirt.

The image of the woman’s naked body returned to him. Again, he felt an unaccustomed stir down below. He squeezed his eyes shut, but it didn’t erase the image of the thin red line of blood. He jerked up at the sound of her screams splitting the darkness.

Reluctantly he stopped, turned around, and began walking back.

By the time he was close enough to see the bonfire’s flames through the trees, the woman had stopped screaming. Sune leaned against a tree in shock when he saw why. Her mouth was bound with something white. He couldn’t see her face, but she was struggling, desperately.

He tried to force himself to look away, but his eyes locked on to the men holding her. He noticed his father hunched over behind her. Then he zipped up his pants and stepped aside for the next in line.

The young woman kept struggling as the line continued, every man having at her. Each time she pushed or kicked, they punched her, and only when the last man had finished did the two who had held her arms during the gang rape let go. She sank to the ground and lay motionless.

Sune’s scream stopped at his throat. Suddenly he was freezing. He ached for the warmth of the fire but couldn’t move. He watched the men pull at the woman’s arms, shaking her shoulders. Finally the gothi leaned over and felt for her pulse. He let go of her arm and shook his head.

The men gathered at the bonfire. Sune heard them speaking but couldn’t make out what they were saying. Then several of them walked behind the van and disappeared into the forest while the rest began to pick up in the clearing.

Sune had no idea how long he’d stood there motionless, staring. All he knew was that the young woman, the same one who only a brief time ago had stood smiling in front of him, was no longer moving.

“We’re ready!” someone yelled from behind the van. The gothi walked over to the woman and lifted her. Her arms and legs dangled limply as he carried her into the forest.

Sune trembled. His right foot was asleep, and his leg gave way when he tried to back into the woods. It was as if his brain refused to accept what his eyes had just seen. His body felt leaden, his heart pounded in terror. He knew the young woman was dead; he’d known it the moment she fell to the ground motionlessly.

He crawled a few meters away. Finally he got the circulation going in his foot. It stung. He should run and hide, he thought, but where to? He peered into the coal-black darkness of the forest. A few limbs cracked as he struggled to get to his feet and grope his way through the trees.

Suddenly he heard voices calling his name. He knew they were coming for him. He held his breath and hunched up, then crawled in under some branches on the forest floor.

The voices called again. They were closer now.

“Sune, come on out here!”

It was his father.

“Come out, now, you’re a part of this. You can’t just run and hide!”

Twigs broke as someone strode by him. He held his breath; then they were gone.

He didn’t dare move. Soon he heard limbs crunching, leaves rustling—they were back. He hugged the ground and held his breath again, the forest floor moist against his cheek.

They crisscrossed the area where he lay until he heard a sudden loud whistle. Then another. Like a siren voice in the oppressive quiet of the forest night. The men returned to the clearing around the bonfire as if the search had been called off.

Finally, when the footsteps had disappeared, Sune relaxed. He breathed deeply and turned, glimpsing the moon shining clearly through the treetops. His heart pounded as he prayed to the gods that the men wouldn’t find him.

Down by the sacrificial oak, the gothi put his robe back on. The men gathered again. The bonfire was dying out, its flames flickering as darkness overtook the clearing. The men formed a circle, and the gothi closed it. Sune stared at what was being passed around from hand to hand. The oath ring.

The chill of the night spread into his chest as he realized that this was the reason they had been looking for him. He was a grown man now, a part of all this. He had sworn with his blood that he was one of them. They expected him to stand together with his brothers as they took an oath of silence, one they could never break.


Louise Rick glanced around the allotment cottage. She had gotten up early to pack and load the car. While on sick leave, she’d been staying in this small, black wooden house in Dragør that she and her neighbor Melvin Pehrson had bought.

She was returning to her apartment in Frederiksberg and her job at National Police Headquarters. Not that the easygoing routine out here she and her foster son, Jonas, had slipped into hadn’t been pleasant. In fact, it had fit her frame of mind perfectly. It was exactly what she needed.

Every morning after sending Jonas off to school on the bus, she’d made a pot of tea, packed it in her bike basket, and ridden to the beach with their dog, Dina, running beside her. Dina also went along on her morning swims. Dina had a puzzled look when Louise swam back to land, as if the dog were trying to convince her to stay in the water longer. And once in a while, Louise had the urge to do just that. To swim all the way out and be swallowed by the waves; to disappear. But each time she had signaled to her deaf pet to follow her in.

She’d kept Dina at a distance until she shook off. If the morning was gray and rainy, she would wrap herself up in a thick towel and crawl in under the Scotch roses, gazing out over the sea while drinking her tea. Dina loved to run back and forth across the sand and eat mussels that washed up on the beach.

She’d been on a leave of absence since the shooting at the gamekeeper’s house, where a man had been killed while attempting to rape her. But it wasn’t the images of her own naked body and the man behind her that haunted her. Nor was it the bullet wound in his head or the blood that had spurted all over her body.

René Gamst, the man who had saved her. The lust in his eyes as he waited to fire the fatal shot, the scorn in his voice when he said it was clear she liked it. That’s what she couldn’t shake.

But worst of all was what Gamst said about Klaus, Louise’s first love, who had hanged himself the day after they moved in together:

“Your boyfriend was a pussy. He didn’t have the fucking guts to put the noose around his own neck.”

The words had been echoing in her head since the ambulance drove off with her that day.

The hospital examination had revealed three broken ribs on her left side, but otherwise only scratches and bruises. She was released that evening. Her boss, Rønholt, suggested she take sick leave, and she had agreed, but only because Gamst’s words had reached that private place inside her she’d hidden away for many years. Not only from the outside world, but from herself.

She and Klaus had been together since Louise was in ninth grade in Hvalsø School; on her eighteenth birthday he had given her an engagement ring. A year later, after he finished his apprenticeship as a butcher, they had moved into an old farmhouse in Kisserup. Two nights later he was dead.

In all the years since stepping into the low-ceilinged hallway to find him hanging from the stairway, a rope taut around his neck, she had been plagued by guilt. For going to a concert in Roskilde the previous evening and staying over with her friend Camilla. For apparently not being good enough. Because if she had been worth loving, he wouldn’t have taken his life.

She’d never understood what had happened that night, all those years ago. Not until Gamst spoke up.

If he were telling the truth, Klaus hadn’t slipped the noose around his own neck.

René Gamst was being held in Holbæk Jail. Shortly after his arrest, he had admitted to firing the two shots, and everyone knew he had shot to kill. The rapist had first broken into his home and assaulted his wife, but Gamst claimed he meant to save Louise. He stuck to that story, and it was difficult to prove otherwise—that he had killed to take revenge.

The day before she prepared to move out of the cottage, she had gone through every detail in the case again with Detective Lieutenant Mik Rasmussen in his office at Holbæk Police Station. She wasn’t proud of what had happened. Especially when she had to explain how René Gamst ended up with a broken arm. He hadn’t said anything about it, and up until then her explanation had been vague. Yesterday, however, Mik had put her through the wringer when she finally admitted that she’d been rough with him after the shooting.

Many years earlier, Louise had been stationed in Holbæk for a short time, and afterward she and Mik had been lovers. He ended it after a big scene, but even though several years and some distance had passed between them, he knew her well enough to know when she was hiding something.

And it came out. The entire story about Klaus and all the years she’d been saddled with guilt. About the reason she had treated Mik badly, and her anxiety about committing: Since Klaus’s death, she had entered relationships only halfheartedly.

Louise knew this last confession hurt him, even though he tried to hide it. But she also sensed that he understood her better now.


  • "One of the best I've come across."—Michael Connelly
  • "For readers who gorge on captivating characters and chilling suspense, THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS is a tantalizing treat. Enjoy yourself, America."—Sandra Brown
  • "[THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS] is gripping when it depicts some horrific crimes...[An] uncompromising realism...distinguishes this novel at its best."—Washington Post
  • "Tautly suspenseful and sociologically fascinating, THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS demonstrates yet again that the finest contemporary suspense fiction emanates from Europe's snowbound North."—BookPage on The Forgotten Girls
  • "A sharp protagonist who wrestles with her own failings and fears, in a skillfully told story that is typically dark in the manner of Nordic crime fiction."—Booklist on The Forgotten Girls
  • "Sara Blaedel is a force to be reckoned with. Everyone keeps talking about the 'trend' in crime writers--Scandinavian, German, Russian. Blaedel is no trend. She's a remarkable crime writer who time and again delivers a solid, engaging story that any reader in the world can enjoy."—Karin Slaughter
  • "This is a standout book that will only solidify the author's well-respected standing in crime fiction. Blaedel drops clues that will leave readers guessing right up to the reveal. Each new lead opens an array of possibilities, and putting the book down became a feat this reviewer was unable to achieve. Based on the history of treating the disabled, the story is both horrifying and all-to-real. Even the villains have nuanced and sympathetic motives."—RT Times on The Forgotten Girls (Top Pick)
  • "The Forgotten Girls is without doubt the best the author has delivered so far...strikingly well done....the chances are good that The Forgotten Girls will become your favorite crime novel for a long time to come."—Børsen (Denmark)
  • "Sara Blædel is at the top of her game. Louise Rick is a character who will have readers coming back for more."—Camilla Läckberg

On Sale
Oct 11, 2016
Page Count
320 pages

Sara Blaedel

About the Author

Sara Blaedel is the author of the #1 international bestselling series featuring Detective Louise Rick. Her books are published in thirty-eight countries. In 2014 Sara was voted Denmark’s most popular novelist for the fourth time. She is also a recipient of the Golden Laurel, Denmark’s most prestigious literary award. She lives in New York City.

Learn more about this author