Where Monsters Dwell
by Brekke, Jorgen; Murray, Steven T. (TRN)

A museum curator's murder that eerily resembles a killing in Norway prompts Richmond homicide detective Felicia Stone and Trondheim police inspector Odd Singsaker to investigate from their respective locations before discovering a common link in a 16th-century palimpsest book. 35,000 first printing.

JORGEN BREKKE was born in Horten, Norway. After completing his studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, he settled in Trondheim, where he currently lives with his wife and three children. Brekke taught education for some years, but recently has worked as a freelance journalist. His debut novel, Where Monsters Dwell has been sold to fifteen countries.

There's a bleakness to current Nordic noir that can make the reader wonder if the tone accurately reflects the Scandinavian soul, or if the authors (following Stieg Larsson) are being intentionally over the top. For example, a character in this Norwegian best-seller spends time, as he sips his morning coffee, closely observing a fly slowly die, noting that the fly's death has lasted through his third cup. This sets the tone for an unrelievedly bleak mystery. The fly gets off easy compared to the human victims, current and historic, recorded here. Two beyond-grotesque deaths occur, one at the Edgar Allan Poe museum in Richmond, Virginia; the other at the Gunnerus Library in Trondheim, Norway. The buildup to each murder is extraordinarily well done and almost unbearably suspenseful. What connects them is the journal (made out of human skin, naturally) of a medieval mendicant monk who was also a serial killer; Brekke gives us excerpts from the journal throughout. The investigation and investigators in the U.S. and Norway make this less of a horror story and more credible. On the whole, the novel lives up to the edginess of this genre. Brrrr. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Brekke's big-boned debut thriller, spanning two continents and 500 years, delves into the unholy connections between a pair of monstrous killings in Norway and the U.S. Efrahim Bond's tenure as curator in Richmond's Edgar Allan Poe Museum is abruptly ended when someone knocks him out with a crowbar, flays him alive and only then administers the coup de grâce. Across the sea, librarian Siri Holm begins the first day in her new position at Trondheim's Gunnerus Library by discovering the flayed corpse of Gunn Brita Dahle, her predecessor, inside a double-locked vault that's heretofore been used only to store rare books. The two cases are clearly linked, but neither Richmond homicide detective Felicia Stone nor Chief Inspector Odd Singsaker, just back on the job after surgery to remove a brain tumor, has any clue that they are. Singsaker, who seems especially at sea, interrogates Gunn Brita's archaeologist husband, reminds Gunnerus security chief Jon Vatten that he was once suspected of killing his own vanished wife and son, and allows himself to be seduced by another suspect. While the two sorely tried cops toil on unaware of the big break that will bring Felicia to Trondheim, Brekke provides increasingly disturbing flashbacks to the creation of the Johannes Book, a 16th-century collection of aphorisms and medical information bound in human skin, which figures in both murders. The sleuths are sympathetic and the atmosphere suitably sinister, but far too many of the shivery complications turn out to be red herrings. Agatha Christie, whose example is noted at several points, would surely have disapproved. Grim and tense, but readers will want more payoff. Copyright Kirkus 2014 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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