NEXT OF KIN by Elsebeth Egholm

First of all, I’d love to come right out and say that this picture might not be the actual Australian-release cover – Next of Kin is not due out until April and this was the only picture I could find. Moving along to the important stuff… I really enjoyed this book! I have a thing for Scandinavian crime novels and with it’s journalistic focus and complex issues, any fans of Steig Larsson’s Millenium trilogy will enjoy this brilliant novel. It’s the first of Egholm’s to be published in Australia, and I hope it is successful (for Pier 9’s sake most of all) to bring more of this fine author’s books down under.

Our protagonist is Dicte Svendsen, seasoned journalist and mother of Rose. Set in Denmark post 9/11 and the London bombings, racial tensions are high and the society as a whole has become uncomfortable and suspicious of ethnic minorities. We learn quite early on that Dicte’s daughter Rose has been involved with a Muslim man named Aziz, and the struggle that is their relationship is followed throughout the book. It provides a great perspective on how difficult relationships can be between two people of different ethnic and religious descent. But that’s not what Next of Kin is all about.

Dicte receives a gruesome video of a man being beheaded by a figure dressed in black. Initially, the video heightens social tensions further, and a wave of anti-immigrant hysteria is released on the Danish society. Liaising with officials, Dicte tries to navigate the extremely stressful landscape of freedom of speech, and questions whether publishing the information she has been given is more giving in to the supposed terrorists demands, or whether it is the right of the general public to know what is happening. When another video arrives, the line between what’s right and what’s expected of her becomes blurred, and Dicte finds herself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Why are the terrorists coming to her? How is she involved? And why does she get the inkling that someone from her past is the link to the murders…

The novel touches on many big issues beyond nationalism and terrorism. There is the question of justice, and when you believe justice has failed you, is it wrong to take the law into your own hands? How can you forgive someone who has taken everything away from you? And how do you move on when you’re only barely gripping to sanity?

Scandinavian authors are unique – there is a je ne sais quoi about their novels that anyone who has read them knows. You can’t describe it. You only know that once you put one down, you absolutely have to pick up another. For anyone unfamiliar with Scandinavian writing, you will find the character names hard at first. It can be a struggle to keep up with all the characters at the best of times, but when you can’t pronounce the names, it can be even worse. My advice to you is this: persevere. This finely crafted novel deserves that much, and you will be happy in the end that you did.

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