The Night Ferry (Konrad Simonsen #5), by Lotte and Søren Hammer

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Lotte and Søren Hammer, and Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Another intriguing novel in the Konrad Simonsen series that sees many twists baffle the reader from the opening paragraphs. When a mysterious man slips onto a canal boat, he appears to have a mission. By murdering many of the adults on board, he seems pleased to slip away by plunging into the water. Seeing the small boat in distress, a larger ferry approaches, but is unable to its course, adding to the carnage. Chief of Homicide Konrad Simonsen and his team are assigned the case, soon rattled when they learn that one of their own is amongst dead. With sketchy witness statements and video coverage of the canal boat’s time on the water, Simonsen zeros in on one man with a past in Denmark’s military services as a likely suspect. Extrapolating the service record of one Bjørn Lauritzen, the Homicide Squad notice that he spent time in Serbia and Bosnia during the mid-90s, a time when the Yugoslav Civil War was in full-swing. Lauritzen’s apparent contact in Denmark may have helped grease the wheels for numerous horrible acts against a cultural minority, something the military will not discuss and stonewalls when it comes to offering up any documentation, even at the highest levels. Simonsen moves quickly to push his investigation to its limits and is able to garner a significant amount of evidence, ensuring the case goes before the courts. Once the legal process commences, there are some loopholes left open and the outcome is anything but certain. Simonsen cannot let this killer slip through his fingers, but the evidence speaks for itself. Might there be another way to ensure justice is served? The Hammer siblings are known for their dark and highly confusing thrillers and this is one of the best. Fan of the series will flock to this, hoping to sift through much of the intense narrative and see Konrad Simonsen rise to the occasion once again.

While I am no Scandinavian police procedural or dark thriller expert, I have read my share over the last number of years. Of all the authors I have encountered, Lotte and Søren Hammer are surely the most convoluted and tangential in their delivery, while keeping the story impossible to put down. While some may dislike this style of writing, much of the story develops under the surface and the attentive reader can adjust to extract all they need to help piece together the elements of the crime. Konrad Simonsen is often front and centre in the series, with his development usually building as the narrative progresses. However, Simonsen seems almost to hover and remain stagnant (at least as it relates to character revelations) in this piece, allowing some of his other Homicide Squad to grow. With the loss of one member, there is a void left in the team and certain individuals flirt with the possibility of being added in subsequent novels. The plot itself is serpentine, beginning with the murder aboard the boat but soon pushing away, as though this local killing spree is only a cover for the larger story. The Hammers do not refute this, as the story morphs into something all about the murderous rampages in the Yugoslav Civil War, though it is the nuances and connections to other countries that keeps the reader intrigued. I applaud the Hammer siblings for this tangent, as it offered up more intrigue than a local mystery might have done, forcing many characters to expand their powers beyond that of the streets within Copenhagen. There seems to be some social commentary woven into the narrative, such that the reader can parse through what is being said and take a stand for themselves. I found it quite interesting, though I can see how some readers might prefer an ‘A to Z’ story whose focus is the slain group aboard the canal boat rather than in the Eastern parts of Europe. I can see that there is much to be done by the Hammer siblings and can only hope the series has enough steam to keep churning out wonderful books.

Kudos, Madam and Mister Hammer, for another wonderful novel. I can see that translation into English has not lessened the impact of your work and hope its quality remains high.

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