WHEN eight-year-old Lycke Höök vanishes from a neighbourhood tennis complex in Stockholm, Sweden, it’s not only members of the little girl’s immediate family who are traumatised.
For TV news crime reporter Ellen Tamm, Lycke’s unexplained disappearance unleashes still-ragged recollections of a terrifyingly similar upheaval in her own childhood two decades earlier.
Delivered to her regular Friday afternoon coaching session by her father’s new wife, Chloé, unaware that the lesson has been cancelled, Lycke is left standing alone outside the courts.
It’s a cold, wet late-May evening.
By the time mother Helena arrives two hours later to collect her daughter, Lycke is gone.
Initially, Stockholm’s police are reluctant to accept the situation as anything more than a disgruntled child having run away from an unhappy existence juggled between two combative households. Time that could be spent searching is frittered away, with few officers assigned to the case and even fewer approaching it seriously.
Reliving the agony of her parallel experience, Ellen steps in, channelling her professional research skills and intuition into the most important investigative story of her high-profile career.
Suspicion ricochets back and forth between Lycke’s estranged parents, emotionally distant stepmother and cocky tennis coach, Petter, a young man whose sexually threatening behaviour unnerves Ellen when he agrees to be interviewed.
As Ellen scrambles in desperation to analyse the dysfunctional Höök dynamic, searching for the slightest clue to Lycke’s whereabouts, her probing reveals a lonely, socially awkward introvert taunted by her schoolmates, neglected by Helena and Harald and resented by Chloé.
Her one friend and confidant is her nanny, Mona, a woman whose entire working life has been devoted to raising other people’s children but who is now within days of retiring from service. With time running out, will Mona’s final week as Lycke’s caregiver end in happiness or grief?