Danish farm girl Nete Hermansen lost her mother at a young age, and growing up among her father and brothers, learned to curse like a sailor and freely exhibit her body - habits that shocked teachers and townsfolk. After a difficult childhood and two early pregnancies Nete was sent to Sprogo Island by evil Dr. Curt Wad, a eugenicist determined to rid Denmark of 'inferior people.'
Sprogo Island housed girls considered to be mentally defective or sexually promiscuous, and the girls were treated harshly, forced to work, and often sterilized. Year later - after Nete left Sprogo, got an education, and was happily married - a chance meeting with Dr. Curt Wad upturned her life once again.
Meanwhile, in the present, Copenhagen police Department Q is looking into a series of decades-old disappearances. The cold case squad consists of three odd but endearing individuals: Detective Carl Morck, his language-challenged assistant Assad, and his secretary Rose, who appears to have a peculiar type of multiple personality disorder. The investigations reveal that the old disappearances seem to have ties both to Dr. Curt Wad, who now heads a political party poised to institute eugenics in Denmark, and to Nete Hermansen, now an elderly lady living alone.
When the police start to look into Dr. Curt Wad he panics, afraid his old Nazi-like tactics on Sprogo will be exposed, and Wad and his allies take extreme measures to protect themselves. Nete Hermansen's connection to the disappearances revolve around retribution against those who wronged her in her youth. The story skillfully switches back and forth between past and present and engages the reader in every scene. The characters are well written and varied: some funny, some earnest, some evil creeps you'd gladly throttle. Not too many twists and surprises but a very good book. Highly recommended.