The Hanging, by Soren and Lotte Hammer

Three stars (of five)

Soren and Lotte Hammer enter the literary scene with a highly thought-provoking thriller that will keep the reader pondering well after closing the book’s back cover. Five men are discovered hanging in a school gymnasium, their bodies mutilated. The case is assigned to Detective Inspector Konrad Simonsen and his team, who begin asking the poignant questions as soon as they arrive at the scene. Battling with Danish media outlets, Simonsen must address rumours that the five men are pedophiles before he can get a positive identification on any of the bodies. When the school’s janitor is suspected of having something to do with the murders, he commits suicide, only heightening the suspicions. While Simonsen continues to investigate, the media fan flames and turns Copenhagen into a veritable vigilante city, spreading across Denmark with every passing hour. In the background, The Climber, the apparent mastermind behind the entire execution, has his own agenda to keep order and keep Simonsen from muzzling his larger plan. Hammer keeps the story moving effectively, though the drawn out analyses makes it jilted, especially for a debut novel. That said, having not read the novel in its original Danish, it could be a novel lost in translation.

I discovered Hammer by fluke, having read a dust jacket ‘praise phrase’ by a new favourite author of mine, Lars Kepler. While Kepler penned that Hammer’s work was “the best Danish crime fiction in years”, I am worried of the state of Danish crime fiction if this can be true. The novel had some great aspects, though it was by no means as exciting or thrilling as some other Scandinavian crime fiction I have read lately (Kepler and Larsson). Hammer take the issue of pedophilia and the media reaction to it, making that a wonderful social issue to address, though at times its presentation is marred by odd character interactions and sub-plots I could not fully digest. The means by which media fan flames and try to create issues for their own benefit is poignant in this day and age of 24 hour news cycles and how sentiment leads to reactionary behaviour, even without fact or a foundation.

Kudos, Mr. and Madam Hammer for this interesting look into your crime fiction abilities. I look forward to the next instalment before I pass complete judgment.