Dead Souls is the second book in the series that features Peter Boutrup, a convicted criminal, Detective Mark Bille Hansen and diver Kir Røjel who live in Djursland, Denmark. Although this book is readable as a standalone the back-stories to these three characters made me wish I’d read the author’s first book, Three Dog Night, first.
In true Scandinavian-noir fashion, there are multiple strands to the story. Peter is having problems with a biker gang and grieving over the loss of his friend My when he is approached by her mother to track down her eighteen year old son Magnus who has disappeared. Peter is a con with a heart and is moved to help her out. Meanwhile at the convent where he works a young girl is pulled from the moat and Peter was the last person to see her alive. Mark Bille Hansen questions Peter but he has few details to tell the Detective it having been a cold dark wintry Halloween night when he saw her talking to a man dressed in black. Meanwhile Kir Røjel has been on a dive to discharge mines left over from the war when she finds a box full of bones which leads to historical investigation that may be connected with the war.
I often find Scandinavian crime quite brutal, this one is no different and it certainly wouldn’t suit the more squeamish reader but it just about treads the line of the descriptions being relevant to the story. There are a lot of characters to follow with multiple persons of interest to keep track of and ponder on their motives as the investigation widens along as the number of bodies pile up. As each of the protagonists has at least one theory for the link between the old bones and the newly murdered bodies the number of suspects grows and the author maintains the tension by allowing the protagonists to get themselves into some sticky situations.
Comparisons have been drawn by the marketing department between Elsebeth Egholm and Camilla Lackberg and Jussi Adler-Olsen; I haven’t read any of the latter and although the multiple strands particularly using a historical thread is reminiscent of Camilla Lackberg’s books there is far less of the personal lives of the protagonists or anything remotely cosy to give the reader the lighter moments which she uses for relief. As much as I enjoyed this book it was a fairly bleak read with some truly horrendous characters from the bikers to the murderer, from the mother’s of the disappeared to the leader of the investigation who had clearly suffered a sense of humour bypass. Not a book to read if you need cheering up but this has a good plot with some interesting historical detail about what happened in Denmark during the war.
I’d like to thank the publishers Headline who allowed me to read this book via bookbridgr in return for my honest opinion.