Lycke: a story about grief wrapped around a mystery

Lycke by Mikaela Bley Book Reviews

What is this about?: Lycke is a young girl who is missing. This book follows Ellen Tamm as she investigates her disappearance.

What else is this about?: Ellen is obsessed with death, and still mired in the grief from the loss of her sister when they were eight.

Blurb: ‘Death, death, death,’ she whispered to herself. But it was already too late. The panic was growing inside her.

On a cold and stormy Friday in May, a young girl disappears without a trace from outside Stockholm’s Royal Tennis Hall.

The missing girl is Lycke, and assigned to report on her story is TV4’s hot-headed crime reporter Ellen Tamm. As the police begin their search, Ellen starts her own investigation, delving into Lycke’s life: her family, the nanny, the kids who taunted her at school.

As Ellen is drawn deeper into a tangle of secrets, lies, and betrayals — and frustrated by the odd behaviour of Lycke’s family, as well as corrupt police, her upstart new boss, and the disturbing threats being made against her — she becomes more and more possessed by the task she has been given, tortured by the echoes of her own past, of the darkness that haunts her.

Will she find Lycke before it is too late for either of them?

Mikaela Bley’s debut, ‘Lycke’, is the haunting first novel in the Ellen Tamm thriller series, and is an exciting new voice in Swedish crime writing.

Stars: 3/5

Ellen Tamm is the creation of Mikaela Bley, a journalist with TV4, much like Ellen is in the book. Lycke is young girl who disappears and whose story Ellen is sent to investigate.


Lycke is missing when the book opens, but despite Ellen Tamm being the focus of the blurb, Bley takes readers into Lycke’s family life — her divorced parents, her new step-mother and even her nanny and school. That these characters were given their own chapters and POV in Bley’s stark tones served to draw a picture for readers of Lycke and who she was — and also to pity her in some respects. 

Another theme, or perhaps point might be the right word, is that not every person is meant to be a parent, and Bley takes her time building a picture of Lycke’s life in that regard. 

Ellen Tamm

Ellen is a journalist assigned to Lycke’s case almost immediately after news of her disappearance breaks. To say she’s complicated is an understatement as she is obsessed with death — a consequence of enduring her twin sister’s disappearance when they were eight. I think in part, what drives Ellen to save Lycke is her desire to save

Bley doles this information out slowly, using the case to build a picture of Ellen, and her past to put her behaviour in context — especially her grief. It is always there, manifesting as anger sometimes, and in a distance between her family and herself. Their relationship is stilted, and the reasons behind that add another level to Ellen and her characters.

In some ways, the grief in this story is what resonated with me the most — about Lycke’s parents who are grieving for her, but prioritise their own agendas, painting a picture of a lonely girl, despite everyone surrounding her. Contrast this with Ellen and her parents who have not yet dealt or overcome the grief of losing her sister, fracturing the family in an entirely different way to Lycke’s family, but leaving them broken nonetheless. 

As stark as Bley’s writing is, I can’t deny that this is an emotional book — but I will admit it may not be everyone’s cup of tea either. Still, I hope you give it a chance! 


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