Lotte and Søren Hammer are a brother and sister crime writing team from Denmark, whose series of novels have become international best sellers. Given the popularity of Scandinavian crime fiction in the UK, it’s surprising that their books haven’t been translated into English earlier. This has now been rectified, however, with The Hanging, which will be published by Bloomsbury on the 6th June.
One Monday morning, before the start of lessons, two children come across the hanging bodies of five naked men in the school gymnasium. All have been horribly mutilated. The investigation gets off to a bad start. Because of the Turkish background of the children, a prejudiced cop takes his time to respond to the call. Copenhagen police investigator Konrad Simonsen is recalled from his holiday to investigate the crimes, but when the victims are revealed as paedophiles, he and his team have to fight public and media opinion that the men got what they deserved and find the killer.
The book has a memorable opening, mutilated men found dangling from the ceiling and this sets the scene for a well written and thought provoking crime novel. The subject matter is, of course, distressing and the damage done to young people’s lives isn’t skated over in this book. But the language of the writing is dispassionate and in this respect it reminded me a little of Man on the Balcony. Any killings involving paedophiles is bound to divide public opinion and this book portrayed very well how an investigation can struggle when justice has considered to have been done. The media have an all important role in this and the scenes involving the press are well done. You get a strong sense of the preoccupations of modern Denmark and also a feel of Copenhagen as a city.
The authors have created some memorable characters. Simonsen is your archetypal overweight cop but the ‘Countess’ a rich police officer with an independent income isn’t. There is a young woman in the force, Pauline Berg, who struggles to find her place in the team and the scenes involving her and the Countess are also fascinating to read. This is the first of a six-part series and I think it likely that it will garner a legion of fans in the UK. I’m one of them.
Thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of the book. The authors’ website is here.