In the third novel in their Konrad Simonsen series, Søren and Lotte Hammer offer the reader a deeper look at the protagonist while he delves into a crime that spans decades. Having recently returned from a heart attack, Simonsen is no longer in charge of the Criminal Division or the team he guided for years. Instead, he is directed to look into a potential crime scene involving a postal worker, who was found at the bottom of the outside stairs on the second floor of his home. What was originally deemed and accidental fall has Simonsen questioning the determination of the police and forensic authorities. As he looks into the man’s past, Simonsen discovers clues to a missing girl from the late 1960s, who left Liverpool and made her way into Denmark. With little on which to go, Simonsen and his team begin exploring the possibilities, which reveals a Group of Six students attending school together, calling themselves the Lonely Hearts. Could these six have played some role in the disappearance (and potential murder) of the English girl? Subsequently, could someone have broken a pact and killed the one member whose guilt became too much? As the case progresses, living more in the age of Flower Power than current criminal activity, Simonsen has flashbacks to the life he lived in the same era, and a love interest whose dealings with the law plagued him for a long time. As he tries to wrestle with that series of feelings and events, Simonsen must look the present to determine if a handful of fifty-somethings came recollect meeting a girl one summer and what might have happened that pushed them over the edge, turning Lonely Hearts into cold-blooded killers. An interesting crime thriller allows the Hammer siblings to spin a tale that has criminal elements and much backstory for the protagonist through to the final page.
While I am no expert on Scandinavian crime thrillers or literature in general, I have a handful of authors from the region with which I am familiar and can compare their works to that of Søren and Lotte Hammer. I find the Hammers’ work to be much more dense and harder to digest, though there could be something about the translation from the Danish that impedes the flow of the story. That said, with much longer chapters and a tendency to push into the more minute details and expand on them, the novel can, from time to time, move into the realm of overdone and somewhat too much for the intended purpose. I know I have mentioned in past reviews of the authors that it seems they take longer to get back to the point and tie up loose ends, the the premises of their novels is strong and the characters are well-developed. Simonsen does have some parallels to those detectives from the aforementioned other Scandinavian thrillers, though this novel ties him up on so many personal levels that it is harder for the reader to leave feeling a sense of a strong connection to the man, but rather a sense that the past and present are overloaded and leave everyone feeling a tad raw. The Hammer siblings are wonderful storytellers, though their delivery could, for some readers, cause a less than celebratory mood as one wades through the text in search for a powerful mystery.
Kudos, Hammer siblings for the strong foundation. While one might call it something lost in translation, I cannot help but feel it is more a case of too much in a single book. I cannot wait to get my hands on the three novels that have yet to make it into English.