Given the crowded field of wounded, murderous females on display in this seventh case for Copenhagen’s Department Q (The Hanging Girl, 2015, etc.), it’s hard to know just where to pin the title in this cavalcade of woman’s inhumanity to woman.
Whoever struck the blow that killed Rigmor Zimmermann and took 10,000 kroner from her handbag seemed to be copying the murder of substitute teacher Stephanie Gundersen more than 10 years ago, with one important difference: Gundersen’s killer didn’t go the extra mile in humiliation by pissing on her corpse. Carl Mørck, who heads Department Q, seizes the possible connection as avidly as a spaniel on a scent because solving another cold case would be the perfect way to keep Copenhagen’s tightfisted budgeters from shutting his unit down. Unfortunately, Carl’s boss, Lars Bjørn, has his own idea of the perfect way: allow meddlesome TV crime documentarian Olaf Borg-Pedersen unobstructed access to Department Q’s inner workings as they plod from one crime scene to the next. Meanwhile, social worker Anne-Line Svendsen, reprieved from the death sentence she feared her cancer diagnosis spelled, has decided to go ahead anyway with her plan to execute some of the prostitutes she counts among her most worthless clients: Michelle Hansen, Jazmine Jørgensen, Birna Sigurdardottir, Senta Berger, and Denise Zimmermann—some of whom turn out to be quite as homicidally inclined as she is, and one of whom will have a crucial connection to Carl’s cold case. The only thing needed to bring the whole mixture to a full boil is the mental breakdown of sorely tried Department Q staffer Rose Knudsen, whose suicide attempt ends up plunging her into the heart of this banquet of mostly female felonies.
Instead of focusing on a single high-concept case, Adler-Olsen lays out several florid plotlines and sets his crime-solvers the daunting task of gathering all the threads together. It’s such a varied smorgasbord that even readers who’d prefer to skip a given dish will find plenty to sate their appetites.