Book review: Three Dog Night, by Elsebeth Egholm

21 09 2017

Elsebeth Egholm is a Danish journalist and crime fiction writer whose work has spawned at least two Danish-language TV series. She’s arguably best known for her nine-novel sequence featuring journalist Dicte Svendsen, though only two of these novels have been translated into English. Her most recent novels feature reformed ex-convict Peter Boutrup.

ThreeDogNight

Three Dog Night (Tre Hundes Nat, 2011, translated by Charlotte Barslund and Don Bartlett) is the first in Egholm’s ‘Peter Boutrup’ series and starts with the New Year’s Day discovery, at the base of the cliff near Boutrup’s home in Grenå, of his fellow former convict Ramses’s body, adorned with a bullet hole to the chest. Peter, who’s interviewed at the scene alongside his reclusive neighbour Felicia (‘Felix’) Gomez, lies to the police about his dealings with Ramses Bilal, but the police are also busy with the search for a missing New Year’s Eve reveller, Nina Bjerre, and the disappearance of the local woman initially takes precedence over the murder of an ex-con. It gradually becomes apparent, however, that there may be a connection between the two events …

Three Dog Night is a little slow to start, since Egholm gives precedence to establishing the personalities of the novel’s principal viewpoint characters: Peter, Felix, local police chief Mark Bille Hansen, and mine clearance diver Kirsten (‘Kir’) Røjel, all of them dealing, in various ways, with a backlog of substantial personal trauma upon which the unfolding sequence of crimes is unceremoniously heaped. This depth (and breadth) of characterisation, and the nuanced emotional subtext through which the novel’s events are filtered, is rather reminiscent of the writing of Swedish crime novelist Karin Alvtegen, though 3DN has rather more grit and brutality than do those of Alvtegen’s novels with which I’m familiar. I might have wished for a slightly less busy plot, all up, but the interpersonal dynamics are well-drawn, the background research seems solid, and the tension is nicely ratcheted without ever truly going into overdrive. It’s a highly promising start to what looks like an intriguing series.

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