cover image Ruthless: A Kaldan and Schäfer Mystery

Ruthless: A Kaldan and Schäfer Mystery

Anne Mette Hancock. Crooked Lane, $29.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-63910-489-5

Hancock’s uneven third outing for Danish journalist Heloise Kaldan (after 2022’s The Collector) starts with a vague deathbed confession from the terminally ill Jan Fischoff, with whom Kaldan has bonded while writing a story about hospice care. Fischoff tells Kaldan that he’s fearful of hell, and mumbles something about “Mads Orek.” After some light research, Kaldan discovers that a man named Mázorek drowned in the late 1990s in Fischoff’s hometown in southern Jutland. Though the death was ruled an accident, Kaldan believes there’s a cold case mystery to solve; her editor disagrees, but she takes time off work to investigate anyway. Her suspicions pay off after she arrives in Jutland and slowly uncovers a web of criminal activity related to missing young women, prostitution, trafficking, and murder. Though Kaldan’s usual investigative partner, Det. Erik Schäfer, stays back in Copenhagen to field unrelated cases, he gets more involved as the story unfolds. Hancock is a strong stylist, and she generates real suspense while giving such serious themes as elder care and violence against women their due. Unfortunately, she bogs down the central mystery with too many subplots, and brings everything to a muddy, unsatisfying conclusion. Series fans will hope for a return to form next time out. Agent: Anna Frankl, Nordin Agency. (Oct.)