By: Katrine Engberg
Published on: January 14, 2020
The first in the Korner/Werner Danish police procedural series that has recently been translated to English. Told mainly from the perspectives of the detectives and the landlady.
When a young woman is discovered brutally murdered in her own apartment, with an intricate pattern of lines carved into her face, Copenhagen police detectives Jeppe Korner and Anette Werner are assigned to the case. In short order, they establish a link between the victim, Julie Stender, and her landlady, Esther de Laurenti, who’s a bit too fond of drink and the host of raucous dinner parties with her artist friends. Esther also turns out to be a budding novelist—and when Julie turns up as a murder victim in the still-unfinished mystery she’s writing, the link between fiction and real life grows both more urgent and more dangerous.
But Esther’s role in this twisted scenario is not quite as clear as it first seems. Is she the culprit—or just another victim, trapped in a twisted game of vengeance? Anette and Jeppe must dig more deeply into the two women’s pasts to discover the identity of the brutal puppet-master pulling the strings in this electrifying literary thriller.
One morning Gregers Hermansen is taking his trash out when he notices the door to his neighbor’s apartment is open. As he enters their home he literally stumbles over one of the girls that lives there. In this Danish detective series, detectives Korner and Werner are assigned to investigate the case. The two of them dislike so many of the small things that make each person who they are, but somehow they are led to believe that they complement each other even if they don’t quite understand what that means. As they investigate all the tenants of the house, they begin to learn of secrets, manipulation and unfinished books that ares eerily similar to parts of the murder.
I’ll be honest I went into the story worrying a bit about the police procedural setup. I wasn’t against having two detectives not liking each other, but I was worried that it would be cliche that somehow they would find that inner friendship and become best buddies at the end. One of my main concerns would be that their dislike would be superficial and would be easy to overcome. Instead, I loved how it was all the different idiosyncrasies of each person and those quirks that make us who we are that really drive them crazy.
The book is set in Copenhagen and part of the fun of reading is getting almost a tour of the city and I loved getting a chance to look things up on the Internet – from the underwater statues, Agnete and the Merman, to the Knippelsbro bridge – a bascule bridge that was first built in the 1600s, although the current version was built in the 1930s. But we also get to learn about other Danish traditions, such as gaekkebrev, a traditional Easter paper cuttings.
Overall, I liked the idea of the story and it’s characters. I also think the translator did a terrific job. However, there was at times a lack of cohesion and implausibility to the mystery/thriller part of the story. Part of me is also torn on the ending and its setup. There seemed to be a lot of moving parts that left me a little confused, and the whole premise of why everything happened made me think it was a bit “much.”
Rating: 3.5 stars
Thanks to Netgalley and Gallery, Pocket Books for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.