Posts Tagged ‘Bosnian War’

THE NIGHT FERRY by Lotte and Søren Hammer: Book Review

In May, 2017 I wrote an About Marilyn column about nature vs. nurture.  I wrote about wives and husbands and parents and children, all of whom were mystery writers.

But I didn’t mention Lotte and Søren Hammer, a sister and brother from Denmark who have co-written several mysteries, because I hadn’t read any of their work at that point.  But now I’ve read The Night Ferry, their fifth book in the Detective Chief Inspector Konrad Simonsen series; to continue the transportation metaphor of the novel’s title, it’s a thrilling ride from beginning to end.

The Night Ferry opens with a man jumping onto the deck of a tour boat in a Copenhagen canal.  In less than a minute he kills four of the five adults on the boat; the fifth, unable to swim, nevertheless jumps overboard in a panicked, futile attempt to save her life.  The canal boat, now without a captain, collides with the Oslo ferry whose own captain is powerless to avoid it.  All but one of the fifteen Japanese school children remaining on the canal boat, in Denmark on a school trip, are killed.

It is a horrific tragedy for all of Denmark, and it becomes personal for the Copenhagen police department when it’s discovered that one of its own, Detective Pauline Berg, was among the victims.  Before her abduction, which was described in the previous novel, she had become obsessed with the death of a young woman whom she believed had been murdered.  All the evidence pointed to natural causes, but Pauline ignored that and continued, both on department time and on her personal time, to investigate Juli Denissen’s death.

Juli’s autopsy showed that she had died of a brain hemorrhage, a condition to which she was predisposed.  Her family refused to accept the official verdict, and that is how Pauline became involved, ultimately siding with them in opposition to the police findings.  So certain were the police that Juli’s death was tragic but non-criminal that Pauline’s obsession with it became known in Homicide as ‘the Juli-non-case’; that, however, did not stop the detective’s search for what she believed to be the truth.

Then Detective Chief Superintendent Konrad Simonsen learns that one of the passengers on the canal boat was the man who found Juli’s body and thus was questioned numerous times by Pauline Berg.  Was the reason for the crime to get rid of these two people, and were all the other victims simply collateral damage?

The answer to that question begins in Denmark but leads, almost incredibly, to the Bosnian War of the 1990s.  Two Danish soldiers, an American/Danish intelligence officer, and the high command of the present-day Danish government are all involved.  And instead of the Danish foreign service, intelligence, and police working together to solve the canal boat massacre, Konrad and his department find obstruction at every turn.

The Night Ferry is a brilliant but hard-to-read novel, as it describes in detail the atrocities that took place when the former Yugoslavia fell apart.  It’s the kind of story that makes one wonder about humankind, but it is well worth reading.  The characters, the plot, the scenes are all absolutely outstanding.

You can read more about Lotte and Søren Hammer at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.