The combination of the name Inger Wolf with a title like Dark September, is so possessed of its own mystique that it can become tempting to judge a book by its cover. An invite to peel open the first page and look into the enchanted forest.
This particular Danish forest is the site of a gruesome discovery - the disrobed corpse of a young woman. Readers familiar with The Killing TV crime drama will immediately visualise the Danish forest where a terrified Nanna Birk Larsen met her end as she failed in her desperate attempt to outrun her killer.
The autumnal season has arrived and Anna Kiehl has been running most evenings up until that fateful night when she ran into the arms of her own killer. A dog walker had chanced across the body of the single mum and university student, a bunch of hemlock placed upon her naked chest: “the white poisonous plant lay fanned out over the woman's exposed breast.”
The investigation revolves around two main police characters: Daniel Trokic and Lisa Kornelius. Each invites curiosity as much as the other and it will be interesting to see how character development progresses throughout the series. Trokic, from the Aarhus Homicide Bureau, Denmark's second largest city, has Croat blood in him. If we are to infer from that his brooding nature, the supposition goes AWOL. Scandinavia produces enough of its own broodiness without seeking an import license to being it in from abroad.
A highly regarded neurosurgeon in Denmark ends up dead and the search for the connection is on. When it becomes apparent that the woman from the forest had been earlier questioned about his disappearance, lights start flashing. Through him travels a vein of social critique: society's attitude to depression and the medications used to treat it. Scandinavian crime writers often use their narrative to address a wider societal issue.
There wasn’t the usual Scandinoir feel to this work. It could as easily have been London, Glasgow, Dublin or Munich. Aarhus, while not the Danish capital, would nonetheless be expected to retain the Scandinor feel. Maybe even more so, presumably not being overlain with the same cosmopolitan mores as Copenhagen. But Wolf travels widely in search of inspiration for her novels. Nevertheless, without that peculiar Scandinavian ambience there is something missing. Like nonalcoholic beer it might taste the same as the real thing but there is just something not right about it. Aficionados of the genre are drawn to it precisely because of the cut of its jib, not down to its emulating of another's.
Not a brilliant book despite it having picked up the Danish Crime Academy's Debut Award in 2006. Still, it is better than average and anything but mundane. It resonates of the Swedish crime writer Mons Kallentoft with its emphasis considerably less on shock than it is on plodding and procedural police work.
The end when it comes is not the end - well not of Daniel Trokic and Lisa Kornelius. More from them to follow.
Inger Wolf, 2017, Dark September. Publisher EAN. ISBN-13 : 978-8771809015
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