In a debut novel by the creator of the television show The Killing, a serial killer in Copenhagen targets young mothers as part of a complex scheme that seems to have ties to the apparent murder of government minister Rosa Hartung's 12-year-old daughter, Kristine, a year ago.
The homicidal Chestnut Man, named after the chestnut and matchstick dolls he leaves behind, is a grisly operator who amputates the hands of the women he abducts while they're still alive. A pair of mismatched investigators are reluctantly on the case: Naia Thulin, a local cop who, tired of what she thinks of as "tedious" assignments with Major Crimes, eyes a promotion to the cybercrime unit, and Mark Hess, a disheveled Europol agent on temporary leave from the Hague to serve "penance for some blunder or other." The big complicating factor is the absence of proof that Kristine, who disappeared, is dead; when her fingerprints turn up on the chestnut dolls, hopes stir that she is, in fact, alive. It takes a little time for the novel to set itself apart from other such thrillers. What are the chestnut dolls if not an imitation of the diabolical snowmen in Jo Nesbø's The Snowman? But with its densely layered plot, chilling settings, and multiple suspects with murderous grudges, Sveistrup's epic rises above any such comparisons. This is a page-turner that will make you hesitate before turning the page, so unnerving is the violence. One of the best and scariest crime novels of the year, it adds to its rewards by promising us at least one sequel.
A tantalizing, un-put-down-able novel by an instant master of the form.