By Sara Blaedel
Formats and Prices
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around November 20, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
An online flirtation can have horrific consequences, as Detective Louise Rick discovers when she is called to an idyllic Copenhagen neighborhood where a young woman has been left bound and gagged after a profoundly brutal rape attack.
Susanne Hansson met her rapist on a popular dating website. But the man is hiding behind a labyrinth of false pseudonyms, and neither Susanne–nor the police–have been able to trace his true identity. With the internet as his playground, the rapist will almost certainly strike again if Louise can’t unmask him before it’s too late.
Incredible suspense and a diabolical series of twists take Sara Blaedel’s wildly popular series to new heights.
The pain cut into her wrists, and she couldn’t do anything because her hands were tied tightly behind her back. Terrified, she turned her face toward him. The blow struck so hard that her head hammered down into the bedding and rebounded back up for the next one. She tried to open her mouth to scream, but her lips were taped shut, which made her feel like she was wearing a mask.
The candles were still lit in the living room. The bottle of wine and the glasses were sitting on the coffee table. Blood trickled down her nose as she stared at the glow from the candlelight, her head turned to the side, and thought about the restaurant and their three-course meal from just a few hours before.
He had ordered calvados to go with their coffee, without asking her if she liked it, so she hadn’t needed to admit that she didn’t know what it was. They’d held hands over the table.
Pain shot through her as he cinched her feet together tightly. Something hard chewed into the flesh right above her ankle bone.
Later they had danced in the living room. Very close. He had held her face in both his hands and kissed her.
Dear God in heaven, help me!
The blood kept flowing, and she struggled to get the air in through her nose. She concentrated on her aim as she lifted her bound legs and tried to kick him off the edge of the bed. He was sitting with his back to her but managed to turn around and parry her feet. Another blow from his fist bruised her cheek and temple.
“Lie still now and nothing will happen.”
He held on to her firmly, and angrily shoved her bound legs to the side.
His clothes were on the chair next to the wardrobe. Her own lay in a messy heap on the floor by the end of the bed. Piece by piece, he had slowly asked her to undress.
The left side of her face throbbed. The quiet music played on in the living room. Her fear felt like an iron grip around her gut.
She cried from pain and shame. Buried her face and body down into the soft comforter and wished it would swallow her up. Her tears mixed with the blood as he pulled her out over the edge of the bed so that only her upper body was resting on the mattress. The world and reality exploded as he shoved himself into her with a violent thrust.
The tape held her scream back. She fought to keep her nose free of the bed and struggled to inhale calmly, but she kept getting thrown out of rhythm by the pain. It threatened to destroy her. Her body began to relax as a fog slowly shrouded her and she lost consciousness.
There was a slight click as she pressed the switch, and a second later, the glass door to the emergency ward swung open. She walked quickly, her eyes trained on the floor. Out of the corner of one eye she noticed family members sitting and talking softly together. A lab technician wheeled a phlebotomy cart out of one of the exam rooms, and she only barely avoided crashing into him.
“Sorry,” she said in passing and hurried past the glass windows surrounding the nurses’ station, over to the reception desk.
“Assistant Detective Louise Rick, Copenhagen Police, Homicide Division, Department A,” she said, introducing herself. “Whom should I be talking to?”
A young nurse stood up and smiled at her. “Just a second—I’ll page the doctor. Why don’t you take a seat for a minute?” She pointed toward the white oval table covered in coffee-cup stains and crumbs from people’s afternoon snacks.
Louise removed her sunglasses from where they’d been perched atop her dark hair, set them on the table, and watched the nurse page the doctor. Louise clasped her hands behind her head and exhaled heavily. She had grouchily struggled her way through rush-hour traffic along Kalvebod Wharf and Folehaven, swatting the steering wheel repeatedly in frustration when traffic ground to a standstill. It had taken an unusually long time to drive just six miles from the Copenhagen Police Headquarters out to Hvidovre Hospital.
* * *
It had been nearly five o’clock when the head of the Homicide Division, Lieutenant Hans Suhr, came into her office. She was writing out the list of things she needed to buy at the store on the way home, but when she saw the look in Suhr’s eyes, she pushed her notepad aside and prepared to call Peter to ask him to pick up the groceries instead. Peter had suggested as much himself that morning as he drove her to work, but she had optimistically dismissed the idea, saying it would be no problem, she could run the errands for once.
“There’s been a rape, and a brutal one at that. I want you to go check it out,” Suhr said, sitting down on the hard wooden chair next to her desk.
Before he could continue, Louise pulled her notepad over again and tore off her shopping list. Lieutenant Suhr often called her in on rape cases: As it usually went over better to have a woman to take the victim’s statement, and as there weren’t that many of them in the division, the cases generally landed on her desk.
“The victim’s been taken to Hvidovre,” he’d said after she had her ballpoint pen ready. “She’s a thirty-two-year-old woman from Valby. Her mother, who lives in the apartment upstairs, came down to her daughter’s place at dinnertime and found her in the bedroom, gagged, with her hands tied behind her back. There was blood on the bed, and the daughter was nearly unconscious from the ordeal.”
The lieutenant seemed to be considering whether or not there was anything else he ought to add. Then he said, “The mother took the duct tape off her mouth before calling the ambulance.”
Louise studied him as he spoke, trying to prepare herself for how ugly it would be, whatever she was going to see. The fact that the victim had been hog-tied and gagged was enough for the downtown precinct to have contacted Department A, and the victim’s condition automatically classified the rape as aggravated battery.
“Susanne Hansson lives alone. When the police arrived at the scene, the mother said that her daughter did not have a boyfriend or any friends she would have been sleeping with voluntarily.”
Louise furrowed her brow. “What does the rape victim herself say?” she asked.
Suhr shrugged his shoulders. “Nothing. The precinct detectives tried when they got to Hvidovre, but they didn’t get anything out of her. One of the female doctors has spoken with her a little since then, but I don’t know how much she found out. Other than that the victim wants to report the rape. You’ll have to talk to her, and then she’ll have to go to National Hospital and be examined.”
Louise nodded, satisfied that she would have a chance to build some rapport with the woman before they arrived at the Center for Victims of Sexual Assault downtown. Her experiences with previous aggravated rape cases told her that if Susanne had been roughed up as much as Suhr suggested, it would probably just traumatize her more to have to undergo the medical exam that same night. It would be good if they had a chance to make the woman feel at least a tiny bit secure again.
“What’s her current condition?”
“Go find out,” Suhr said. “I’m sending Jørgensen out to the woman’s apartment on Lyshøj Allé. The crime-scene investigators are already there. Call once you have a rundown on what happened.” He slapped his hand on her desk in closure, then got up and left her office.
Louise flung her jean jacket over her arm and glanced quickly at the stacks of paperwork on her desk. On her way to her chief inspector’s office, where the squad car sign-out book was kept, she managed to get herself all worked up, worrying about what she would do if all the cars were already checked out and how then she’d have to go over to the garage and suck up to Svendsen. But no, thankfully there were two cars available. She grabbed a key and signed one out in the book. Silly to have worried about such a small thing, she thought as she headed down the stairs two at a time.
* * *
“She’s on her way now,” the nurse said as she hung up the phone.
Louise thanked her and stood up. She stuffed her sunglasses in her pocket and pulled out her lip balm.
“Hi, I’m Anne-Birgitte,” said a young doctor with gold-colored wire-rim glasses. Her hand was cool and her handshake firm, her long hair worn in a bun on the back of her head.
Louise felt sweaty and disheveled compared to the doctor, and she compensated by making her voice sharper and more detached than necessary. “How much has she told you?” Louise asked, instead of introducing herself, noting with chagrin the doctor’s reaction. The woman’s cooperative expression changed, but by then it was too late for Louise to change her more aggressive tack.
“Enough to know that it may be too soon to allow her to be questioned by the police.”
They stared into each other’s eyes, and Louise sensed a little bubble of respect forming and making its way up through her body. She let it radiate from her eyes just long enough for the woman facing her to be able to tell she was backing down.
“It’s great that you got her to report it to the police,” Louise said, flashing her a smile as the tension eased.
“If you have time, why don’t I just fill you in on what I’ve jotted down in her case notes?”
They sat down next to each other, and Anne-Birgitte skimmed the loose pages she had brought with her.
“Her hands and feet were tied behind her back with strong plastic straps,” she said. “The kind you would use to tie cables together or that the police use as disposable handcuffs.
“The ambulance guys cut them off before they brought her in, and the mother had already removed the duct tape that was covering her mouth. Her blood pressure was low, and we were able to ascertain that she was also suffering from dehydration, so we started a glucose drip, which is already helping. She’s starting to come to.”
The doctor finished, pushed the chart aside, and sat expectantly, ready to answer the detective’s questions.
Louise nodded and tried to remember what else Lieutenant Suhr had said, and which other questions she still needed answers to.
“There was blood,” she began. “How badly hurt is she?”
“Ms. Hansson sustained some violent blows to the face, which have bled a fair amount, and it appears there was some abdominal bleeding, but that’s stopped. I haven’t done a pelvic exam; that won’t be done until she gets to National Hospital.”
“How much has she told you?”
Anne-Birgitte spoke hesitantly. “Not so much. She’s quite distressed, and either she doesn’t want to say anything, or she can’t remember what happened. To begin with, she wouldn’t even confirm that there had been a crime. But obviously there’s no doubt about that.”
Louise noticed the doctor purse her lips to show that, in her opinion, there was no doubt that a crime had been committed. Crime? Louise wrote, moving her hand over the paper to hide what she’d written. “Do you know if she knew her assailant?” she asked.
“She was too incoherent for me to get that far. But she nodded when I asked if she wanted to report the assault to the police, so I passed that message on to the two officers who had brought her in.”
Louise put her notepad back in her bag. The doctor didn’t seem to have anything else to tell her. She might as well go in and speak to Susanne herself.
She stood up and waited for Anne-Birgitte to do the same, but the doctor remained seated, staring at the cookie crumbs on the table. “The patient is very distraught,” Anne-Birgitte said, looking up. “She does not at all seem like a woman who would voluntarily consent to sex play that involved being gagged and having her hands and feet bound—and being beaten up.”
Louise was about to interrupt her, but the doctor kept going. “She has been physically and mentally abused, and I would urge you to keep that in mind.”
“Of course,” Louise said, irritated. This wasn’t the first time she’d been told off because the police were forced, for professional reasons, to consider both sides whenever a rape was reported. “I’m assuming it’s all right for us to move her to National Hospital?”
“That should be fine,” the doctor replied. “It shouldn’t make her condition any worse. Shall we go in?”
* * *
Louise followed as the doctor led the way, but waited out in the hall while Anne-Birgitte went into the room to say that she was here. Shortly thereafter, the door was flung open and a woman in her midfifties rushed out and grabbed hold of Louise’s arm. Louise quickly figured that this must be the victim’s mother.
“You have to understand—something dreadful has happened,” the woman said.
Louise pulled back slightly, but that just made the woman tighten the grip on her arm.
“I presume your daughter is the one I should be speaking to,” Louise said, removing the mother’s hand before gesturing to the row of chairs along the wall. “Why don’t you wait out here while I go in and see her?”
She guided the mother over to a seat before the woman could inhale enough to protest. Louise gave her a friendly push down onto a chair.
“Once I’ve spoken with Susanne, she and I will drive over to National Hospital. At that time, it will be best if you go back home and wait for her there. If you give me your phone number, I’ll give you a call when we’re done with the exams at National Hospital and I’ve taken her statement at Police Headquarters.”
She pulled her notepad out again and handed a blank page to the mother.
“I’m coming with you,” the mother said, ignoring the piece of paper.
Louise squatted down beside the chair. “I can’t keep you from doing that, but I want to prepare you. You’ll be sitting around waiting for many hours, and there really won’t be anyone who will have time to talk to you. Right now, this is first and foremost about your daughter, and of course you want to be there for her. But if we’re going to have any chance at figuring out who did this to her, we need to have an opportunity to talk to her, and there are a number of exams that have to be done.”
The woman looked as though she was starting to understand.
“Well, then I’ll go home and tidy up her apartment a little,” she said, mostly to herself.
Louise put her hand on the mother’s shoulder and explained: “The police are still in her apartment, so it will be a little while before you’ll be allowed in. I recommend that you go home. It must have been a big shock for you to come downstairs and find her like that.”
The mother nodded, but Louise could tell that she was about to protest again, so she hurriedly wrapped up the conversation. “I’ll call you later tonight,” Louise said and scurried into the hospital room.
She’d been through this type of conversation many times before, so it hadn’t taken her long to determine whether it was going to be a help or a hindrance to have this particular mother present during Susanne’s medical exams and when her statement was taken: Everything about the situation told her that it was hard to see what the benefit could be.
* * *
The hospital bed was near the window, the curtains fluttering a little in the light breeze coming into the room. Susanne was lying there staring outside, and she didn’t turn her head until Louise was standing right next to the bed.
“My name is Louise Rick. I’m an assistant detective with the Copenhagen Police Department,” she said to introduce herself, trying to keep her voice calm and soothing. “Could we have a little chat?”
Susanne turned and stared right through her. She had withdrawn into her own world.
Sad, Louise thought. Things are much worse for you in there than they are out here.
“You’ve just been through a terrifying experience,” she said, looking down at the woman’s battered face. “I know that you’ve already been examined a little, and I can certainly understand if you would prefer to be left alone right now, but I would really like to take you to National Hospital, where the Center for Victims of Sexual Assault is located. They’re the ones who will do the official exam necessary to report the rape.”
There was no response from the bed, so Louise continued. “If you’re able to walk on your own, I suggest that we take my car. But I could also get an ambulance to take you, if you’d prefer?”
Finally, Susanne responded by letting her eye wander a tad closer to Louise’s face. Louise quickly assessed whether she would do better to take a seat and pretend they had all the time in the world to wait until Susanne felt like she was ready to talk to her, or whether she should pressure the woman and provoke a response.
She decided on a compromise between the two.
“There’s a coroner waiting at the center. He is going to examine you, and then the police will take your statement. And I was actually hoping that we could talk a little bit now, before the exam.” Susanne interrupted her. Her voice was hoarse, and when the words came out Louise could barely see Susanne’s mouth move. She had sores at the corners of her mouth that were obviously still painful.
“A coroner examines dead people. Why is he going to examine me?”
Louise leaned in to hear what Susanne was saying. She pulled her chair over to sit by the bedside.
“Coroners do perform autopsies on dead people, but they also examine the living,” she said, trying to play it down, regretting her choice of terminology, forgetting that most people don’t know the nuances of police lingo. “They are always called in whenever a rape victim is examined at the center.”
The tears were starting to flow down Susanne’s cheeks. Louise reached over to hold her hand, careful to avoid the woman’s IV line. She reassuringly stroked her arm as she spoke.
“We want to make sure that we secure the evidence that the perpetrator doubtlessly left on you…”
Susanne began to sob. Her body was like a cavernous well, supplying bucket after bucket of tears.
Louise changed tactics. She would give Susanne the time she needed now. Something was loosening inside the victim, and that was worth waiting for, she thought.
Finally, the crying subsided.
“I could ride with you,” Susanne said, drying her eyes, “but I don’t have any clothes.”
She sounded apologetic, as if she was ashamed that she had been naked when she was brought to the hospital.
Louise smiled at her. “We’ll have the nurse find you a bathrobe and a pair of slippers.”
Susanne nodded, and Louise noticed that Susanne’s eyes followed her as she stood up and went to find someone who could help them out with some clothes.
In the car, Louise called Flemming Larsen’s extension. He was the coroner on duty, and she had already given him a heads-up from the car during her drive out to Hvidovre.
“We’re on our way in now,” she said when he picked up.
“Good. What has she said?”
Louise avoided glancing over at Susanne Hansson, who was sitting in the passenger seat next to her. “Nothing.”
Flemming was silent for a second and then asked, “Do you want to take your statement before or after I examine her?” he asked.
“I’ll wait until you’re done. We’ll head straight up to the division, so we’ll see you there.”
They agreed that Flemming would wait for her to call before coming over to National Hospital from the building in back, where the forensics unit was located.
Susanne sat staring out the window. Before they had left Hvidovre Hospital, the nurse had removed the glucose drip and given her a white bathrobe to wear over her hospital gown. She still looked dazed and battered. An aura of vulnerability and humiliation shrouded her, and it broke Louise’s heart a bit.
Physically, Susanne would recover in a few weeks, but it would be a long time before that aura faded.
Louise contemplated whether it would help to start their conversation while they were in the car. There wasn’t any reason to pressure her or force her to remember the events of the night until she had made it through her examination. She needs peace and quiet, Louise decided, thinking about the standard uncomfortable questions that were part of taking a statement from a rape victim. Are you sure that this was rape? That was the last thing she needed to hear right now.
She stopped at a red light and looked again at the slumped-over shape in the passenger seat. She was having a hard time judging how Susanne would respond psychologically to what awaited her during the next few hours. Right now, it looked as though everything had been taken from her. The quiet in the car was conspicuous and awkward, but there was very little she could do.
Louise pulled in and parked in front of Stairwell 5, and she called the forensics unit once she had locked the car. They took the elevator up to Gynecology and continued down the corridor until they came to the small section that housed the sexual assault center.
Louise went up to the desk to say they had arrived.
The nurse at reception came out and gave Susanne her hand. “Do you have any family members with you?” she inquired.
“No,” Louise said, avoiding looking at Susanne.
The nurse clearly understood that Louise had seen to this, and that she and Susanne had come alone because Louise needed to get Susanne’s statement. She did not try to hide her disapproval of Louise’s seemingly callous action.
Louise was irritated at being yet again cast in the “bad cop” role, but she bit her tongue. She still found it inconceivable that people who dealt professionally with these kinds of serious assaults didn’t fully appreciate how important the medical examination and the victim’s statement were. If they were to have any hope of catching the perpetrator, having a mother sitting on the sidelines possibly dissuading her daughter from giving the police a full statement was not going to help.
“The doctor will be by in a bit to take a look at you,” the nurse told Susanne.
She avoided using the term coroner. Louise had not been as tactful, but she just didn’t think there was any reason to hide from Susanne exactly who would be performing the examination.
“If you want it, we’ve got a bed where you can lie down until he comes,” the nurse continued, glancing at her watch. “I’m sure he’s probably on his way up now. You could also wait out here, or go on into the examining room.”
That last part was directed at Louise.
At that very moment, Flemming Larsen walked in, wearing a white lab coat that fluttered around his legs. He introduced himself to Susanne and asked her to follow him.
“You wait here,” he told Louise as the two of them went over into the little office that served as the examining room.
Louise had made up her mind to be present, although she knew that Flemming would not be happy about having so many people there as he performed his portion of the exam. A gynecologist and a nurse would also be present, so the room would be crowded, to say the least.
Still, she nodded and watched Flemming, who was almost six foot six, gently guide Susanne Hansson in, letting the door slide shut behind them.
If it had been any of the other doctors, she would have put up a fight. Eavesdropping on the examination could be a gold mine. Sometimes the victim included information that would be much more valuable at the time than later on when it eventually showed up in some report. But she had a good working relationship with Flemming and knew that she could count on him to give her a proper account of whatever information Susanne provided.
She went into the little conference room and sat down to wait. When the coroner was done, the staff from the sexual assault center would take over and offer Susanne a chance to take a shower and meet with their psychologist before proceeding to Police Headquarters to give her statement. In the meantime, Flemming would fill Louise in.
* * *
- "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."—Oprah.com
- "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
- "Sara Blaedel knows how to reel in her readers and keep them utterly transfixed."—Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of I Know a Secret
- "Another suspenseful, skillfully wrought entry."—Booklist on The Killing Forest
- "Engrossing...Blaedel nicely balances the twisted relationships of the cult members with the true friendships of Louise, Camilla, and their circle."—Publishers Weekly on The Killing Forest
- "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 on The Killing Forest
- "For readers who gorge on captivating characters and chilling suspense, THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS is a tantalizing treat. Enjoy yourself, America."—Sandra Brown on The Forgotten Girls
- "Sara Blædel is at the top of her game. Louise Rick is a character who will have readers coming back for more."—Camilla Läckberg
- "Crackling with suspense, atmosphere, and drama, THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS is simply stellar crime fiction. I loved spending time with the tough, smart, and all-too-human heroine Louise Rick--and I can't wait to see her again."—Lisa Unger
- "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 **Nominated for a Reviewer's Choice Award**
- "Gripping."—Washington Post on The Forgotten Girls
- "Tautly suspenseful and sociologically fascinating."—BookPage on The Forgotten Girls
- "Tightly knit."—Kirkus Reviews on The Forgotten Girls
- "Chilling...[a] swiftly moving plot and engaging core characters."—Publishers Weekly on The Forgotten Girls
- "Sara Blaedel's THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS is an emotionally complex police-procedural thriller ...With a gripping premise, fast-paced narrative and well-developed characters, THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS is an incredible read."—FreshFiction.com
- "One of the best I've come across."—Michael Connelly
- On Sale
- Nov 20, 2018
- Page Count
- 384 pages
- Grand Central Publishing