Books

I’m Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjork

I’ve had my eye on this one for a while, and then I walked past it the other day in the supermarket and thought, well. Why not?

I’m a sucker for a horrifying story, and this certainly fits the bill.

I'm Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjork
I’m Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjork

A child is found hanging from a tree. Around her neck is a tag that says “I’m travelling alone.” She’s just the first.

As more children’s bodies turn up, the police resurrect a team of investigators that had previously been disbanded. Everyone knows they’re the best people for the case, but they have their own dark shadows and difficult stories to deal with.

Not least of which is Mia Kruger, a brilliant but troubled investigator who has taken herself to a remote island where she plans to kill herself in a few days’ time. But chief investigator Holger Munch needs her back on the team if they’re going to find out who’s been killing all these girls…

I mean really, I was destined to love it. A troubled female investigator, a grumpy but loveable chief of unit, a bunch of kids who need help. It ticks all my boxes.

And it doesn’t disappoint.

The most brilliant thing about I’m Travelling Alone is the characterisation. The way Bjork builds his characters is second to none: they’re believeable, complex, interesting humans. His villains are complicated and much more comprehensible than a lot of storybook antagonists tend to be.

And there are a few passages that are infinitely relatable, like this one about Gabriel, a hacker who’s been drafted in to help the police:

“Munch hit a button on his laptop and the first slide of his PowerPoint presentation appeared. They were not the same photographs that had been on the front pages of the newspapers… These were of the missing girls… hanging from two separate trees. Gabriel Mørk had never seen anything like it. It was at this point he suddenly realised what he had signed up for. This was not a movie. This was not just another TV programme. This was real. The two little girls no longer existed. Someone had killed them. In real life. They were no longer breathing. They would never talk again. They would never smile again. They would never start school.”

And he’s right. There is – or at least, there was for me – a moment when it hits you, as an investigator, that you’re not just playing a part in some badass spy movie. You’re actually looking at real life. The actions you take, the things you don’t do, can genuinely have an impact on whether someone else lives or dies. That’s a huge responsibility.

You’re not just looking at an actor or a stunt double or a mannequin on a TV screen. You’re looking at a dead body. A real one.

It’s a hugely affecting thing – positively, in many ways, because it can be used as a driving force to motivate you further. But this is the first time I’ve seen it so accurately represented in a work of fiction.

In other words, I think I’m Travelling Alone is an excellent book and you should read it if you like Rankin, or Gerritsen, or Hayder. If you’re a fan of a chilling storyline, a good complex villain, and several layers to each of your characters.

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