Welcome to the nbmagazine.co.uk stop on the blog tour for Die for Me by Jesper Stein!
Here’s a little info about the book:
A brutal serial killer is preying on women in Copenhagen.
DI Axel Steen begins an obsessive manhunt that sends him spiralling out of control.
The investigation is fraught with heart-stopping near-misses, dark mysteries, and a final revelation with devastating consequences…
And about author Jesper Stein:
Jesper Stein was born in Aarhus, Denmark. He began his writing career as a journalist and made his literary debut in 2012 with the crime novel Unrest – the first in the Axel Steen series. He has received massive attention for his sharp eye for detail, rich and innovative plotting, and confident prose. Praised by critics as a writer who will keep readers on the edge of their seat, Stein has positioned himself as one of the most talented authors of crime fiction in Scandinavia.
And here’s Paul Burke’s review of Die for Me:
Die for Me is an intriguing new Scandi-noir thriller from Denmark, it’s rich in local character and explores the theme of violence against women from a contemporary perspective, tilting at the lack of compassion in the system. Be in no doubt, this novel is pretty gritty because it’s grounded in realism, it’s a tough edgy story about the hunt for a serial rapist/killer so it chills the bone at times. This intense tale is further ramped up by single-minded, damaged, maverick cop Axel Steen, he goes all out to catch the perpetrator and woe betide anyone, colleagues or bosses, who get in his way. Of course, Steen isn’t the only good cop in the city but he’s more invested than most and his attitude often butts up against authority, budgetary obstacles and jaded investigation work. Die for Me is an engaging read but it’s also a commentary on the way rape victims are treated, a reflection of wider societal attitudes. Stein has written a psychological thriller with real depth that is a tough uncompromising read.
Ørsted Park, Copenhagen, June 2004. It’s a baking hot day. DCI Axel Steen is watching the frogmen drag the lake – so far nothing. Marie Schmidt, an eighteen-year-old school leaver, has been missing for thirty-six hours since she rang her father to say she was at the local train station and wouldn’t be long. Marie’s clothes, her bag, all her belongings, were found in bushes near the lake by one of the park gardeners. Axel’s partner, John Darling, wonders whether the girl might still be alive but it’s just fear and wishful thinking, he has a lot to learn, the scene says rape and murder to Axel. Cecelia rings Axel just as the divers go back in, he blocks her call. Marie’s father is there with Tine Jensen, family liaison, when a diver says they’ve found a young woman. Officers lead the father away before the body is brought up. Forensic pathologist Lennart Jönsson says Marie was partially strangled then drowned. Alex finally takes Cecelia’s call she tells him Emma, their daughter, is in intensive care and it’s all his fault. Things begin to fall apart.
June, 2008. Newly appointed Deputy Commissioner Jens Jesson is dealing with budget issues and a shake-up to departments that he wants to implement right away. He wants to be more hands on with murder and terrorism investigations. Jesson is also in a relationship with Cecelia now and someone is trying to poison him against Axel, of course, he has his own agenda re: Cecelia’s ex anyway.
Axel is a mess these days. He’s a departmental legend but was badly injured last year and the breakup with Cecelia floored him, he misses regular contact with his daughter, Emma. Axel is drifting until a DNA sample links a recent rape to the murder of Marie Schmidt, he has the bit between his teeth again. Tine Jensen was the investigating officer on the rape case but she didn’t believe Jeanette Kvist was the victim of a sadistic attacker. It’s not long before Axel is at odds with Tine and John Darling, who is now his boss and not keen on Steen reopening the Marie Schmidt case because of a tenuous DNA link, he’s very conscious of new budget constraints. Tine Jensen is angry at Axel’s assumption that he’s the only cop who cares but, on the other hand, Ea Holdt, Jeanette Kvist’s lawyer, is glad somebody from the police department is finally taking her client seriously. Axel is trying to hold it together but his bloody-minded approach is making enemies and he will soon have to deal with Jens Jesson too. As more connected cases emerge, Axel realises they are on the hunt for one of the most vicious and brutal rapist/killers the city has ever seen. He won’t let the killer get away again.
Steen isn’t easy to take to quickly, he’s a complex character full of hang-ups, but then he has a damaged past, he’s intense and headstrong to a degree you don’t normally see in the ‘good’ guy, and he isn’t always right. But then his desire to rid the streets of a vicious rapist/killer is admirable, and readers will begin to understand him better as the story progresses.
I missed Unrest, Stein’s first Alex Steen novel, but I thoroughly enjoyed this dark and atmospheric thriller. The topic is tough but this novel although Frank is not exploitative. The depiction of horrendous crimes, never witnessed directly, will make you empathetic towards and angry on behalf of the victims, all the same, you will be in no doubt how brutal this rapist/killer is. There’s nothing here that doesn’t serve a purpose in the narrative and the general perspective is an abhorrence of violence. From the early scene of the father trying to get to the lake, where he thinks the body of his daughter has been found, to the treatment of victims giving statements about their ordeal, to the general attitudes of the police to rape, Die for Me is critical of the uncompromising, often cold-hearted approach of the law and the police. Rape is the only crime where the victim is also on trial. How we support victims is something modern police forces are still, to be kind, patchy on all over the world. I look forward to more Axel Steen from prize winning author Jesper Stein. Expertly translated, as ever, by Charlotte Barslund.
Paul Burke 4/4
Die for Me by Jesper Stein
Mirror Books 9781912624584 hbk Jan 2020