05/18/2024

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Back from the Dead by Heidi Amsinck  @HeidiAmsinck1 @MuswellPress  @Brownlee_Donald

Back from the Dead by Heidi Amsinck  @HeidiAmsinck1 @MuswellPress  @Brownlee_Donald

Source: Review copy
Publication: 18 April 2023 from Muswell Press
PP: 362
ISBN-13: 978-1739123857

My thanks to Tim Donald and Muswell Press for an advance copy for review

A Missing person … a headless corpse … Jensen is on the case.

June, and as Copenhagen swelters under record temperatures, a headless corpse surfaces in the murky harbour, landing a new case on the desk of DI Henrik Jungersen, just as his holiday is about to start.

Elsewhere in the city, Syrian refugee Aziz Almasi, driver to Esben Nørregaard MP has vanished. Fearing a link to shady contacts from his past, Nørregaard appeals to crime reporter Jensen to investigate.

Could the body in the harbour be Aziz? Jensen turns to former lover Henrik for help. As events spiral dangerously out of control, they are thrown together once more in a pursuit of evil, more dangerous than they either could have imagined.

I really enjoy Heidi Amsinck’s writing. She has the ability to write about dark crimes as a Scandi noir writer, but she also has a lightness of touch that means there are moments when you just laugh out loud at something a character says or does. Her protagonist, Jensen is a savvy journalist with a good eye for a story and a really bad habit of taking up with the wrong men.

Not this time, though. Now she is all but living with her billionaire boyfriend Kristoffer Bro and she is happy. Well in her personal life at least. At work the story is rather more mixed. The paper is cutting ever more jobs and the impetus to be ever more digital first is something the Dagbladet has to address. On the plus side, it means that Jensen now becomes Chief Crime reporter, but on the back of a colleagues redundancy, and there’s no team to back her up, just a young intern by the name of Gustav who is the editor’s nephew.

The story begins with the discovery of a headless body found in the sea by a local fisherman. DI Henrik Jungersen of Copenhagen Police and his sidekick, Mark Søndergreen are on the case. Henrik is feeling aggrieved. He doesn’t like change and he’s just lost his D.S. Elisabeth Quist, to organised crime. Henrik is also fretting about Jensen. He’s not happy she’s taken up with Kristoffer, whom he has cause to dislike.

Jensen, meanwhile, has been asked by MP Esben Nørregaard to see what she can find out about the disappearance of his driver, Aziz Almasi. He asks for discretion – will she look into it as a favour to him, please? When she hears about the headless body Jensen is concerned it might be Aziz and that involves her straight away in Henrik’s investigation.

The pair are swiftly swung headline into an escalating series of more dead bodies and a lot more mystery which leads to some misunderstandings and some tense and emotional moments. Of course as former lovers, there’s that personal closeness and also tension between the; not helped by Jungersen’s inability to decide what he really wants.

Heidi Amsinck has constructed a complex plot with lots of different pathways, allowing Jensen and Henrik to follow different investigative paths which will ultimately lead them to the same destination. It’s fascinating to watch the gloomy short –tempered Henrik follow his path with a heavy tread while Jensen always seems more fleet of foot, partly because she has sources that Henrik just could not imagine.

The plot is quite convoluted, though well-constructed, and both Henrik and Jensen find themselves in real difficulty more than once, leading to some thrilling moments, and a lot of tension. There is also a sobering reflection on how dangerous and difficult this work is which leads to an ineffable sadness on the death of a respected colleague. The story delves into Danish politics, capitalism and cronyism as well as immigration and the impact on Danish society.

The pace is strong and the dual perspectives of Jungersen and Jensen make for a good contrast. I enjoyed the glimpse of an ‘underground’ Denmark where the local coffee stall owner makes contact with a network that keeps him informed. I’m sure there’s more to come from Liron, other than the fact that he makes the best coffee in Copenhagen.

Verdict: A thoroughly enjoyable read with great characters, an insight into Danish politics and a thoroughly tangled mystery to unpick.

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Heidi Amsinck, is a writer and journalist born in Copenhagen. She was London Correspondent for the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten. She has written many stories for BBC Radio 4, including the story sets Danish Noir, Copenhagen Confidential and Copenhagen Curios, all read by Tim McInnerney. She was previously shortlisted for the VS Pritchett Memorial Prize. Heidi lives in London. Last Train to Helsingor her first collection of stories, was published in 2018.