Fossum is one of the most complex and literate authors of the contemporary mystery genre. She displays her remarkable skills once more, in deceptively simple prose, in the case of a missing nine-year-old girl, Ida Joner, who disappears on her yellow bicycle on the way to a local kiosk.
Hours pass as Idaís divorced mother anxiously watches the road for a little girl who never comes home again, trembling with the horror of her situation. Meanwhile, other characters are introduced, the type of people immediately suspect in such case: absent fathers, strangers who stand out, the unattractive and the socially inept. As the hours pass, Helga Joner gives in to her worst fears, calling police to inform them of the missing child.
The case is assigned to Inspector Konrad Sejer and his assistant, Jacob Skarre. Unfortunately, Sejer has seen too many of these cases, anticipating the likely outcome. This case differs significantly from others only in that there are so few clues to work with, Ida seeming to have disappeared into thin air.
Fossum frames her tale in the worries of three mothers - Helga Joner; Ruth Rix, Idaís aunt; and Else Marie Mork, the industrious widow and parent of a fifty-year-old son, Emil, who lacks the most rudimentary communication skills. Helgaís anxiety is the most accessible, the darkest fears of a parent with a missing child, her future riddled with loss as the days pass.
Elsa Marie Mork has buried any tenderness she might feel beneath layers of busyness and rage. Obsessively cleaning Emilís tiny cabin each week, she is a frightening, furious presence, as though her tirades can shape the world differently. And Ruth is frantic, her imagination without bounds, concerns for the emotional trauma on her twelve-year-old daughter, Marion, and her eighteen-year-old son, Tomme.
A teenager, Tomís behavior has become more confounding since a minor accident when he dented the body of his newly-purchased Opel. Even moodier since Idaís disappearance, Tomme is clearly troubled, struggling with a manipulative older friend and unlikely to share his problems with his parents.
What appears to be a simple case grows more complex as Sejer and Skarre assemble the fragments of a troubling puzzle that gradually takes shape through the investigation. Humans are similar no matter the geography, curious, helpful, interested in the fate of a little girl, everyone feeling threatened by such a shocking crime. With infinite patience, Sejer applies himself to the most unusual of circumstances, teasing truth from an impossible tangle of fictions and misperceptions.