Title: The Night Ferry
Author: Lotte Hammer and Soren Hammer
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Price: Rs. 855
Stieg Larsson and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo whetted the world’s appetite for Scandinavian crime fiction. And since then we have seen a slew of quality crime novels getting us acquainted with the Nordic countries and their idiosyncrasies. Add one more name (actually two) to that list – the siblings Lotte and Soren Hammer. They are the creators of the Konrad Simonsen detective series.
Konrad Simonsen is a middle-aged detective, a staple of Nordic crime novels, who is head of homicide for the Copenhagen police. The Night Ferry is the fifth book in the Simonsen series and takes the characters and readers to a very dark place.
The plotline: 16 children and four adults are killed in a devastating boat crash in Copenhagen. Detective, Chief Superintendent Konrad Simonsen is called in, only to discover that this was no accident and that one of the passengers has a very personal connection to the homicide team.
Reeling from this revelation and not knowing who to trust, Simonsen follows a trail that eventually leads him to Bosnia and a legacy of criminal misconduct. Can Simonsen and his team uncover the face/faces behind the crime? The authors describe Simonsen as a person who ‘faces both life and murder investigations on the basis of his morals’, which can sometimes lead to clashes with his superior’s.
The novel also delves into his private life and how his relations with his team and daughter affect him. The characters are well etched out with each getting adequate space without distracting the reader from the main purpose of the book – solving the crime.
Good crime thrillers have to be fast-paced and The Night Ferry cruises through at a rapid speed, while still allowing one to comfortably view the passing landscape.
The authors aren’t afraid of handling some sensitive issues and take a critical, unimpassioned and unbiased look at Denmark’s military past, its relationship to the US and involvement in modern European wars. It delves into the Yugoslavian civil war of the mid-90s and the Danish military entanglement in Bosnia and in Srebrenica massacre.
What is interesting is that unlike Larsson, the Hammer siblings manage to discuss some extremely dark and evil subjects without making the book gloomy. The writers focus more on the investigation than the crime itself.
But unlike Larsson, this very fact makes the characters seem less emotionally involved. We are presented with different aspects of the feminine spirit through Konrad’s young upcoming cop daughter Anna Mia, a newcomer to Simonsen’s crew Amica Buch, a close colleague and wife The Duchess, his boss and also an important antagonist. Certain scenes touch upon the glass ceilings women encounter and the breaking of the same, yet somehow they don’t left the impact ‘Lisbeth Salander’ could.
Lotte and Soren Hammer, the sister and brother duo, who began writing crime novels together in 2004 write about police procedure and that leaves the reader with less emotional connect while making for a fast read. All in all, The Night Ferry is one ride that will make you want to take a trip on the Hammers’ boat and read all the other books in the Simonsen series.