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Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Hanging. Lotte & Soren Hammer. Ebba Segerberg (Translation). Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. (2013)

A very gripping and engaging crime story with stunning plot mechanics and a great cast. Five men are found mutilated and hanging in a school assembly hall. The men have had their faces and hands removed which hinders identification which gives the investigation lead by
Detective Chief Superintendent Konrad Simonsen a significant problem to begin with. The problems become significantly more acute as the motive behind the killings become clear and a very carefully considered plan starts to bear fruit. The plot unfolds with superb timing, the reveals are very well staged and the depth and range of the plot emerges with force. The conclusion is smart, credible and satisfyingly bitter.
Lotte and Soren Hammer use the plot mechanics in a very engaging and unexpected way, the five murders are not the conclusion of something that is investigated by the police team, it is the start of something that deliberately is running alongside the investigation. This means that the investigation is constantly having to deal with new events that complicate their work and create tremendous pressure on all the members of the team. The people who are running the events leading out from the hanging are under severe pressure also, for very different reasons. The plans they are managing are hugely ambitious and need considerable concentration and work to manage, having started an avalanche they are trying to ride it.
This dual track means that there are three main groups of people involved in the events as they unfold, the police team, the people responsible for the hanging and crucially the public at large. The way that the actions and responses of all three groups overlap and interact is deeply engaging and gives the very large cast room to make an impression on the reader without the focus of the story ever being lost.
DCS Simonsen is a great character, deeply competent and determined he finds that he has a personal stake in the investigation which challenges his professional training very nicely. He is counterpointed by his ex-boss Kasper Planck, who is included in the investigation and whose semi-detachment from the police force and the investigation proves to be vitally important.
The group behind the hanging are given the room to individually emerge as characters, they share a common motivation and plan but respond to the tremendous forces they have unleashed in very different ways. They are not masterminds or super-villains, they have had the time to plan and the willingness to act and they know that the investigation will be focussed on the dead men they will have a space to implement their true plan.
The greater context is vital to the story and Lotte and Soren Hammer have managed to develop a horribly effective picture of how public opinion can be captured and directed, how this goes from mass events to much more small scale ones, all driven by the dangerous power of outrage.
With a great framework that alows them handle serious issues without ever compromising the genre requirements, this is a superb read. The translation by  Ebba Segerberg is transparent, the Danish context is clear all the time without any stumbling or word choice that would throw the reader out of the story.

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