The Collector (Kaldan and Schäfer #2), by Anne Mette Hancock

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Anne Mette Hancock, andCrooked Lane Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

After her series debut piqued my interest, I returned for another ARC by Anne Mette Hancock. A Danish psychological thriller, the story works in ways that force me to look outside my traditional expectations for novels in the genre. Full of local flavouring, Hancock develops a piece that is sure to intrigue many readers, though I am not sure if the original Danish was more impactful from a linguistic point of view.

After the disappearance of a young boy from his school, the authorities in Copenhagen are on high alert. Lukas was gifted in ways that exceeded academia; he obsessed over pareidolia, where one sees faces in inanimate objects. After scouring Lukas’ possessions, they discover a photo of a barn door with what could be a face in the shadows. Might this be a clue to his whereabouts? Journalist Heloise Kaldan thinks that she might be able to help, but struggles with locating the source of the barn.

After the grisly discovery of Lukas’ jacket, the forensics points to a former soldier with a mountain of issues all his own. Could Thomas Strand have abducted Lukas for some twisted reason? What was the endgame in all of this and how did it all take place? While Heloise Kaldan works with the authorities, including Detective Erik Schäfer, little comes together, However, once Strand is found executed in his apartment, the case takes on deeper and more sinister panic.

A missing child, an executed soldier with mental health issues, and this lingering pareidolia. How did it all come together so swiftly? While Schäfer and Kaldan try to piece it all together, they have some personal demons that must come to the surface or risk ruing their ability to successfully manage the case. In a gripping piece that has moments where the reader will surely gasp aloud, Hancock creates a chilling tale with a tense ending for all to enjoy!

While I do read a number of Scandinavian thrillers, I would not call myself an expert, That said, I know what I like and which books I am happy to push to the side. Anne Mette Hancock has all the ingredients for a strong piece, though there were times I felt it lacking. I contemplated what it could be and wonde if the translation was not as crisp as I would have liked. I know that with many books that face the translation mountain, I cannot tell where the seams are located. However, with this one, they were all too apparent, leaving things slightly jilted.

The key to a strong thriller is to begin with a bang. Hancock does that with the disappearance of a young child, as well as some of the subplots related to the protagonists. She pulls the reader in and uses her narrative abilities to build on the story from there. Once things are strong from a foundational point of view, Hancock is able to incorporate strong characters and key plot twists to keep the story moving. I felt as though I were on the streets of Copenhagen throughout and never left the scene of the crime, which exemplifies Hancock’s abilities. I am eager to see if there will be more to this series, which I may give one more chance, as the translation proves a yoke to my overall enjoyment.

Kudos, Madam Hancock, for another intriguing piece. I am curious where things are headed now.

The Collector (The Bone Collector #2), by Fiona Cummins

Eight stars

Fiona Cummins’ second novel holds all the intensity of the first, captivating the reader yet again. Picking up soon after the first novel ended, Cummins envelops the reader in this thriller, tantalising them with her wonderful abilities and cliffhanger moments. Clara Foyle is still missing, having not been found when the police raided one of the residences of the Bone Collector. In a gaffe during transport, the Bone Collector got loose and fled, remaining off the radar. These developments have been haunting DS Etta Fitzroy ever since, forcing her to come to terms with the horror of a child that has been lost. While she remains determined to find Clara, DS Fitzroy must wait for a significant clue to emerge. Meanwhile, after settling in rural Essex, the Bone Collector, now going by the name Mr. Silver, is trying to reestablish himself, much of his work still unfinished. He has found an apprentice who will be able to help him with his work while also trying to decide what purpose Clara might serve. Saul is a teenage boy forced to care for his alcoholic mother alone, after his father fled. Filled with angst and animosity, he is the ideal candidate to work alongside Mr. Silver, though he is still not entirely sure what is in store for him. After a new victim is lured to the beachfront house and killed for her bone anomaly, Mr. Silver has found his legs and is back in business. All that he needs to do now is tell the world he’s back, with a cryptic message affixed to the skeleton of a rabbit. DS Fitzroy is ready to resume the hunt, but will she be prepared for what Mr. Silver has planned now, and with someone to help? Cummins keeps up her electrifying story and leaves the reader stunned as they push through to see how it will all come to play out. Those who enjoyed the first novel in the series, as well as readers who love a good psychological thriller, will love this second piece.

Fiona Cummins has not lost the momentum she developed with the start of this series, pushing the genre out of its comfort zone. This only goes to show that Cummins is ready to use her ideas and reshape an already crowded genre, pushing her to the top of the list, amongst other powerful writers. Etta Fitzroy is still superb cop who has been processing the difficulties of a jaded work-home balance and a husband whose forced her to rethink her life choices. Armed with the failure to apprehend the Bone Collector once and for all, with Clara Foyle still out there, DS Fitzroy must work even harder not to botch the case again. The Bone Collector—Mr. Silver—has regrouped and sees the benefit of cultivating a new generation to continue his macabre museum of bones and medical anomalies. He’s found Saul and will do whatever it takes to ingratiate himself with the teen, hoping to fill a massive gap in the boy’s life. Still, there is much work to be done and many lives hang in the balance, as well as victims that must be culled around the country. Cummins offers some great backstory here to explore where the penchant for bones and murder might have originated, providing the reader with wonderful insight. The story is just as strong as before, flowing well through chapters full of information and cliffhanger moments. It would appear that date and time stamping each chapter poses the dual benefit of providing the reader some context and showing that Clara is still missing, and has yet to be recovered. This chill is not lost on the attentive reader, who wonders what is in store for the victim who has touched the lives of many characters in this book. Cummins does a magnificent job at injecting thrills and suspense into her narrative, leaving things hanging as she forces the reader to beg for more.

Kudos, Madam Cummins, for another award-worthy novel. I hope others will see what I have discovered and pick up this series in short order.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: