This second installment of the Chief Inspector Odd Singsaker series weaves the murder of a Swedish balladeer in 1767 with a contemporary plot about a serial killer who pursues girls with beautiful singing voices.
Set in the small Norwegian city of Trondheim, Brekke's tale of two murder investigations with musical themes is ambitious and well-researched but not always engaging. The historical plot includes lots of detail about Scandinavian life in the 18th century, when the water is so foul that beer or aquavit are the fluids of choice and class divisions impede the job of Police Chief Nils Bayer, who lives in a permanent state of debt and debauchery. Bayer is not as absorbing a character as Singsaker (Where Monsters Dwell, 2014), a 60-year-old detective recovering from brain surgery who’s newly married to a young American woman and prone to ruminate on fate and mortality in a way that's reminiscent of Henning Mankell's mainstay, Kurt Wallander. He's looking for a serial killer who rips out his victims’ larynxes and replaces them with music boxes that play a ballad that, legend says, will put anyone who listens to it into a sound sleep. The investigation moves along nicely, though it's a bit gory (in typical Nordic fashion). Brekke uses minor characters doing historical research to connect the cases, but he's not quite skilled enough to harmonize the two plots.
Not the most gripping mystery around, but fans of Nordic noir with a historical bent might enjoy its combination of present and past.