The fourth of the Hammer siblings’ accounts of Danish skulduggery follows a human trafficking ring to its untidy but logical end.
Identifying the skeletal remains of a young woman killed six months ago, her body dumped in a lake in Hanehoved Forest, is obviously going to be quite a challenge for Detective Superintendent Konrad "Simon" Simonsen (The Vanished, 2016, etc.) and his colleagues in the Copenhagen Homicide Department. It will take months before their painstaking, brick-by-brick investigation reveals what the reader has known all along: the dead woman, an uncooperative Nigerian teenager who’d been smuggled into Denmark and forced into prostitution, was accidentally killed in the middle of a punishment administered by Henrik Krag, a newcomer to this kind of work, while his more experienced partner, Jan Podowski, and Benedikte Lerche-Larsen, the boss’s daughter, looked on. Simon and his crew deferentially interview Adam Blixen-Agerskjold, the chamberlain and gentleman farmer who owns the forest, and his lady, Lenette, before they develop a more serious interest in estate bailiff Frode Otto, whose four-year-old conviction for assault makes him a much more likely prospect. And indeed Otto, questioned by the police, smilingly confesses to three additional rapes on which the statute of limitations has run out. While Simon and company are running down unpromising leads, the tale keeps turning to Benedikte’s hate/hate relationship with her father, poker and prostitution king Svend Lerche, and his helpmeet, Karina Larsen—who want to keep their daughter on a short leash even as they groom her to take over the family business—and her unlikely romance with Henrik Krag, which promises to be equally dysfunctional.
The Hammers, who put the procedure in procedural, keep the pot simmering at such a low temperature you’ll wonder if they’ve mistaken the fridge for the stovetop. The stubborn lack of momentum makes this one a natural for travelers on endless flights.