“The correct interpretation of numbers determines whether we live or die. it’s life or death That’s something that every scientist understands. That was why Tycho Brahe got his nose sliced off in a duel.”
“Because of numbers?”
“Because he claimed that so-called complex numbers existed. And his adversary claimed that they didn’t.”
“Who was right?”
“Tycho Brahe. But he lost his nose.”
Venetian policeman Tommaso di Barbara has discovered a trend in killings around the world – every Friday at sunset, a good person is murdered. Humanitarian, lawyer, volunteer – they all die with a strange burn-like mark on their back. Niels Bentzon picks up the Interpol report – but can’t bear the thought of travel and doesn’t speak di Barbara’s language. Only once he teams up with Hannah Lund, astrophysicist extraordinaire mourning the premature death of her son, is he able to impose a pattern and find out when the next murders will be. The question is, can he stop them?
Parts of this were really well written – as a police procedural, with all of the distractions from the climate conference and the terrorist threat, it succeeded. I kept reading, engrossed, all the way to the end with no trouble.
Niels and Hannah are both interesting characters – neither is perfect and each is dealing with their own romantic issues – but as a partnership they work very well. In particular, their weaknesses are key – Hannah’s inability to deal with normal interpersonal situations, Niels’ travel phobia; both are worked slyly into the story but are completely obvious as obstacles when we happen on to them.
Kazinski writes Venice and Copenhagen well – the floods, the abandoned madhouse/hospital, the cold, the ridiculous media interactions with the police at the conference, the conflicts between cyclists and cars in Copenhagen and most of all, the pervasive, penetrating, personal cold that a north European winter brings (I’m writing this with the heating on, socks and slippers, and a blanket over my knees).
However, this gets big negative marks for resorting to a fate-imposed, generational mysticism. I bought it until Niels tried to run away and whatever he did, events conspired to send him back to Copenhagen; similarly the suggested passing of the burden to a new soul at the climax dragged this novel down into Dan Brown land. Except worse because at least there, none of it is magical and spiritual and fate, it’s all just bad guys.
Copy kindly provided by Simon & Schuster when I went to their author-blogger meetup.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 519 pages (paperback)
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