cover image American by Day

American by Day

Derek B. Miller. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-1-328-87665-2

In the summer of 2008, 40-ish Chief Insp. Sigrid Ødegård, the heroine of this outstanding crime novel from Miller (Norwegian by Night), travels from Oslo to upstate New York to look for her missing brother, Marcus. Marcus is the prime suspect in the murder of his African-American lover, Syracuse State University professor Lydia Jones, who was thrown out of the window of a building that Marcus was seen entering shortly before. Damning evidence includes traces of skin under Lydia’s fingernails that match Marcus’s DNA. A specialist in race relations, Lydia was tormented by the recent death of her nephew, shot by a white policeman. Sigrid soon joins forces with Sheriff Irving Wylie, a former biblical scholar with a deceptively aw-shucks manner. Wylie is quick to rebut her laconic Norse insights on such matters as American individualism and police methodology. Leavened throughout with Miller’s wry reflections on Norway’s “chronic sense of discontentment,” this incandescent exposé of European and American mores profoundly entertains and provokes disturbing questions about personal and societal values. Agent: Rebecca Carter, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (U.K.). (Apr.)