I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
The mayor of Copenhagen is found murdered in his luxury apartment. Detective Lars Winkler is put on this sensitive case, which is further complicated by the fact that the victim’s mother is the leader of the country’s most radical political party and the current minister of finance. Lars notices the minister and her husband are strangely untouched by their son’s death. When he begins to dig into the mayor’s past, he slowly uncovers the dark story of a young, idealistic man, who had only one wish: to free himself of his family and live his own life.
I received an Advance Reading Copy from the publisher, House of Anansi Press.
It was a bit confusing at the beginning, getting it all the characters straightened out and figuring out the flashbacks, but once I had those details established in my brain, this became a pretty standard Nordic Noir. The main character, Lars Winkler, is the typical detective of the genre—he’s getting divorced, his ex-wife is living with his boss, and he’s a bit reluctant to share all of his thoughts about an investigation with his colleagues.
The real star of this mystery, however, is the transgender woman, Serafine, whose tale winds its way through the novel. I found the sections depicting her point of view to be the best written in the book. In fact, I think it’s too bad that this publisher changed the title—in Denmark, the book is called Serafine. I know very little about the struggles of transgender people, but it seemed to me that Melander really felt for this character and portrayed her extremely sympathetically.
Other than those two, the other people are little more than cardboard cut-outs. They exist only to fill their roles and they have very little substance. I hope that in future volumes of this series that they will get suitable back stories and become well rounded in their own right.
The other aspect that is written extremely well is the music—and a quick check of the author’s bio reveals that he has a musical background, so that makes perfect sense. In this aspect, the book reminds me of Mankell’s Wallander, with his passion for opera.