Review: The Tenant by Katrine Engberg

Rating: 8/10

Synopsis

Detective Jepsen “Jeppe” Koerner is a veteran of the Copenhagen Police Force. He thought he had seen just about everything, until he caught the case of Julie Stender’s murder. The young woman was found dead in her first-floor apartment, blood spatter everywhere, with a pattern carved into her forehead and an unconscious old man next to her.

Jeppe and his team are tasked with finding the killer, but that is becoming harder by the day. Everyone is a suspect, and bodies are piling up. The Copenhagen Police Force is going to have to dig hard to solve this one, but one thing soon becomes clear: the more they dig, the more secrets they unearth. Jeppe et al must unravel the puzzle and hope to discover the murderer at the center of it all.

Review

The Tenant reminds me very much of a 90’s police procedural. A young woman with a full dance card, living her best life, is found murdered and everyone in her life is in question. The list of suspects is typical: protective father (check), jealous ex-boyfriends (check), crazy landlord (check), plus a whole list of others who come up during the investigation. The more Detective Koerner and his team investigate, the bigger the list gets. It seems everyone has means, motive, and opportunity to kill her. There a few more murders along the way, turning the investigation in different directions each time and causing the police to get deep into the dirt on everyone involved. There were several surprises along the way in this story, but it was not unnecessarily complex. I found it to be simple to follow, but at the same time not oversimplified. There was enough intrigue created by the characters and the plot twists to keep me interested.

Detective Jepsen “Jeppe” Koerner was a really good protagonist. In many ways he was a classic cop: a little jaded, sometimes grumpy, always trying to puzzle things out, asking the hard questions. He and his partner Detective Annette Werner have been working together for 8 years. They know each other’s habits, and sometimes they get along. They have their share of arguments but compliment each other well. As with most 90’s-ish police procedurals, the reader gets a glimpse into Detective Koerner’s personal life. He has just gone through a tough divorce and is, for lack a better word, “noticing” other women a lot more. A little bit of a warning here, it does get caught up in his “male gaze” at times, but that feels very purposeful to me as a man who has just divorced and is trying to get back onto the dating scene. Detective Koerner’s romantic life is one of the most entertaining parts of the book, as he bumbles his way through interactions with women and fights (or in some cases, does not fight) his sexual urges. There were many intimate scenes involving Detective Koerner, and it was a good bit of comedic relief that helped balance out the murder mystery.

There were a lot of characters to keep track of in this book, from the police force to the suspects, but they were all very uniquely written that I found it easy to follow. In this type of book, the more the merrier because ,as a reader, I want murky waters. I want to think I know who did it and where the story is going, only to completely reverse my opinion in the next chapter. The list of characters in this book is one of the best aspects of it, as it kept me guessing until the end.

I also loved the setting. The story takes place in Denmark, and the descriptions of that country really set a nice tone for the story. It almost a yin-yang: poetic, peaceful landscapes scarred by blood and murder. I like the dark-light combination the author created.

While the writing overall was very good, there were a few areas that I think could have been better. Some of the sentences came off a little awkward from a phrasing and punctuation standpoint; it was not constant in the book, but enough to be noticeable to me. I chalk that up to translation, though, as I believe this book was written in another language and translated into English. I also found myself in a love-hate relationship with the dialogue. It was very cheesy police talk most of the time, and the reader also gets to hear Detective Koerner’s inner dialogue – which also comes off as cheesy. I liked this aspect in the beginning, but by the end it had overstayed its welcome a little bit.

Overall, The Tenant was a really good murder mystery/police procedural in the vein of Law & Order, only the “Law” part, though. I recommend it for fans of the genre.

4 thoughts on “Review: The Tenant by Katrine Engberg

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