The Night Ferry by Lotte and Søren Hammer

Review published on April 11, 2018.

This is the fifth Konrad Simonsen investigation and it’s one of the best police procedurals I have read in a long time. When I read The Hanging, the first novel in this Danish thriller series, I thought it was a strong mystery tale that promises a lot for the future – this novel is the pay off. The characters and their relationships are so well drawn that it means the action leads the plot which unfolds at high speed. The Night Ferry has a clever plot that develops in complexity and darkness and manages to maintain the tension right to the end. It is involving and you will care as about the investigation.

The Night Ferry deals with a story that takes a wrecking ball to the idea of Denmark’s very ordered state and adherence to authority and procedure. Siblings Lotte and Søren Hammer subvert that national self image with internecine fighting between the services, political corruption, conspiracy and a two devastating crimes nearly twenty years apart. The Night Ferry delves into Denmark’s military past, relationship to America and involvement in modern European wars to great effect.

Copenhagen, 2010, a man stands on Battery Bridge watching the tourist boat approach, a party of school children have boarded but he can’t let that interfere with his mission. As the boat arrives he jumps from the bridge and lands on the deck. He unpacks his weapon, a deadly military knife and attacks the nearest adult. By the time the screaming of the children abates he has killed the four adults on board, the children’s teacher has jumped over the side and the killer has calmly swum to shore and vanished. As DFDS ferry Pearl Seaways from Gothenburg approaches the port of Copenhagen the crew spot the tourist vessel heading out to sea, straight for them. There is nothing the captain can do to avoid a collision. As the boat sinks the children are drowned or sucked into the giant vessel’s propellers, twelve die, only one survives. When DCI Simonsen and homicide arrive they discover that one of their team, Pauline Berg was the first victim. Was she the target or was this a random act of madness? Berg has been investigating the case of Juli Denissen since 2008, everyone else call it the ‘Juli-non-case’ – assumed to be an unfortunate death not a murder. But is this terrible event something to do with Juli’s death? Nobody took Berg seriously while she was alive, will they now?

What really works is the fast paced flow of the novel. The chapters are short but each one pushes the story forward. The attention to detail of procedure and interviews, (very ordered, very methodical), is authentic and yet maintains the excitement. Some of the exchanges between the homicide team and the people they are investigating are very entertaining. Crisp dialogue and a healthy sense of good guys and bad guys. Be warned the story gets very dark.

Detective Chief Inspector Simonsen and his crew, including ‘the Duchess’ Nathalie van Rosen, Klavs Arnold and newcomer Amica Buch are a good team and one it’s interesting to see working together – that dynamic helps the story. Their interactions really do make them seem like a team and they need to be as events get out of control. There is also a great court room scene that got this reader fired up.

The Night Ferry is a powerful story set in very dark territory that chills and thrills. All in all a very satisfying read.

Paul Burke 5/4

The Night Ferry by Lotte and Søren Hammer
Bloomsbury Publishing 9781408860359 pbk Mar 2018

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