A Death in Denmark by Amulya Malladi (Mystery / Thriller)

Writing: 3/3 Characters: 3/3 Plot: 3/3

I believe this is Malladi’s first detective novel (I’m far more familiar with her literary novels which I’ve liked very much). Gabriel Praest — her Danish detective — is a dapper ex-cop, part-time blues musician, and avid quoter of existentialists. An ex-girlfriend (the one who got away), asks him to clear her Muslim client of the brutal murder for which he has been convicted. The racism that has helped lead to his conviction is paralleled in the link to the Nazi murder of a particular group of Danish farmers and the Jews they were hiding during WWII.

This book may work for some people — plenty of interesting (though disappointing in that I thought the Danes were one of the few countries that valued and helped their Jews) Danish history, a look into modern Danish life (which is new for me), and a main character who has all the hallmarks of the brash, tenacious, undauntable PI with some modern trappings such as a flair for dressing, tight connections with both the under and over world, and (of course) relationship problems. He didn’t work for me — too many cliches and nothing particularly deep or insightful. The writing is decent but a lot of time is spent on political agendas and maneuverings while the rest is spent on describing clothing, interior design, and details of every day Danish living that don’t particularly interest me. Lastly, a lot of the writing was of the “tell, don’t show” variety, so long explanations of what happened when, but with no action and somewhat stilted dialog. To be fair, there was a lot of action in other parts.

I really loved her book “The Sound of Language” which I remember giving a genuine feel to the story of an Afghan refugee settling in Denmark. Obviously, this book is a detective novel which tends to be written differently, but I miss the good characterization and pacing of her previous works. This book didn’t work for me as either a literary novel or as a detective story, but it may work for others who like thrillers and more canonical hero types.

Thank you to William Morrow Paperbacks and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on March 28th, 2023.

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