In Malladi’s A Death in Denmark (Morrow, Mar.), PI Gabriel Præst reopens the case of a Muslim convicted of murdering Denmark’s right-wing attorney general.
Why did you shift to a series after writing standalones?
I always wanted to write a mystery, but I don’t plot very well. So I thought it was not going to happen, and then suddenly, there was this Danish politician whom I didn’t like and I wondered, what if someone killed her? It was a conversation my husband and I had just for fun, but nothing came out of it. Then Covid hit, and I was missing traveling, I was missing Copenhagen. So I thought, well, maybe now’s the time to write a book that will take me to Copenhagen. It didn’t start out feeling like a series, because I’m very intimidated by the idea of writing a series.
Are there historical parallels to the current Danish government’s treatment of Muslim refugees?
The book is about racism. When you think of Denmark, and you think of WWII, you think, “Oh, my God, they saved all these Jews. What a great country.” Well, you know, Danish Jews were Danes first and Jews second, so they saved them, but the other Jews were foreigners, and they were sent back to die in the concentration camps. That felt very much like what was happening today with Syria. The country will not accept Syrian immigrants—and let me be very specific—Syrian Muslim immigrants. But then the war in Ukraine broke out, and suddenly they’re like, “Oh, yeah, we’ve got to take care of these people.” I wanted to show that hypocrisy in the book.
Why make Gabriel Præst a clotheshorse?
I’ve been reading a lot of Nordic noir, and have watched TV shows like The Bridge and The Killing. For some reason, the protagonist is either an alcoholic or an addict, or is someone who doesn’t know how to dress, and the stories are so dark. But Copenhagen is not dark. It’s a fun, exciting city. People dress very well. I feel he represents to me a lot of who Copenhagen people really are.
Gabriel has a thuggish ally, Bør, who’s reminiscent of Hawk from Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. Was Parker an influence?
I’m a big Spenser and Hawk fan, but Gabriel is a different kind of private investigator. He’s not comfortable with violence. He’s a family guy who likes to go to breakfast with his daughter, he’s affectionate, he’s insecure—and he’s not an alpha male working out in a gym all the time. Plus, he bicycles everywhere, which is so typically Copenhagen.