A nine-fingered part-time piano tuner, Canary Island cab driver, and self-appointed investigator ambles through a case involving the death of an infant.
If Danish debut author Rydahl is launching a series, he’s come up with a winner in what would be its first installment. (The book garnered the Danish Crime Glass Key Award.) Rydahl centers on a canny, idiosyncratic protagonist, Erhard Jorgensen, who will charm readers. Jorgensen subsists on tinned food—eaten from the tin—and nightly tucks under his pillow a finger he found at an accident site; he hopes to pass it off as his missing tenth digit. Nearing 70, Erhard may be the eponymous hermit to some on the island, but it’s clear that as a taxi driver involved with his neighbors and co-worker, the term is a misnomer. His ties to humankind emerge when he discovers an infant, probably 12 weeks old, in a car abandoned on a beach. How and why did this happen? Where are the parents? Haunted by the image of the baby, Erhard goes after the case—and in his own fashion. When police tell him they’ve found the culprit, a prostitute named Alina, Erhard insists they’re just trying to avoid a PR disaster because tourism is down. To deny the police evidence, he kidnaps the working girl, musing that prostitutes “sell oneself in bite-sized chunks garnished with one’s soul.” Then he finds Alina brutally murdered. To keep police unaware the prostitute is dead, Erhard disguises her corpse by stripping the body of his friend Beatriz, beaten unconscious by unknown thugs, and putting her clothes on Alina. Meanwhile, Beatriz’s boyfriend Raul, who works for an island crime syndicate, goes missing. The case doesn’t exactly hurtle to its melancholy finish, but Erhard’s wry musings and Rydahl’s high-resolution images of the island help the reader to settle into the deliberate tempo.
A languid stroll with a sage detective through vivid locales that leaves a lasting impression.