After last week’s bizarre homage to Hannibal, in The Missing Link, Beck is back to rather more gritty matter, as a young girl, Denise, is raped and murdered on her way home after a party. Her parents find her dead in a park, and suspects include a dodgy Russian taxi driver, a weirdo walker, and a n’er-do-well party-goer, Mehmet.
Beck, worried about his own daughter Inger, takes the case personally, though his powers evidently aren’t at their height – he doesn’t realise for instance that she’s going out with his colleague Gunvald Larssen.
When he catches on, the two have an incredibly awkward conversation which doesn’t make for a comfortable working atmosphere.
There’s implausibly little forensic evidence or CCTV to go on, but Beck realises, in the process ruining a perfectly good map, that several similar cases have taken place near the same subway line. When another girl is raped, there is some forensic evidence, but the police seem remarkably unable to tie it to any of the suspects.
After discussing the Gunvald situation with Inger – another awkward conversation – Beck questions Denise’s parents, who are understandably distraught.
Then a Bosnian, Stefan, is battered and run over, and it becomes clear that the cases are related; he was seen at Denise’s memorial, and he knew Mehmet and another iffy character, Lasse.
Surveillance begins to pay off when Mehmet and Lasse are spotted together, and their phone records suggest they’ve been conspiring with Stefan in a vile rape contest. In a tense chase, Gunvald nuts Mehmet, and Lena Klingstrom wounds Lasse. They claim that Stefan was the murderer, and everyone’s happy that the case has been wrapped up – except Beck.
As he points out, there’s no forensic evidence in Denise’s murder, and no-one has admitted responsibility for killing Stefan. Gunvald thinks his theories are outlandish – “See you on Moonbase Alpha” he comments in a sardonic reference to Gerry Anderson’s Space: 1999, retitled for Sweden Månbas Alpha.
Beck realises that Denise’s wounds were caused by Stefan’s dog-tags, that he lost them in the park, and that Denise’s parents found them, used them to track him down, and killed him – he might have some sympathy for their actions, but Stephan had raped another girl while they withheld this vital evidence.
Beck at least has a bit more detective work to do this week, though he’s clearly distracted by the Inger situation, and the defensive Larsson doesn’t help.
Nonetheless, the plot doesn’t hang together for a moment – a rape and murder is meant to have taken place in a few seconds, the serial rapist thoughtfully wore dogtags with his name on them, and the victim cut her hand deeply on a chain which would have snapped in a moment. It’s all a bit sloppy, and when you’re tackling a crime this sensitive – and at least the impact on the victims is spelled out clearly – it doesn’t pay to cut these sorts of corners.
A lacklustre episode, perhaps leavened only by Beck’s discomfiture at Larsson’s duplicity, and the usual baffling encounters with Beck’s gnomic neighbour Grannen, who does at least unintentionally contribute something to the investigation for once.