The Body on the Beach|
Anna Johannsen, translated by Lisa Reinhardt
Thomas & Mercer, 2019, 227 pp, PB, $15.95
In this classic police procedural, DI Lena Lorenzen returns to her small hometown island of Amrum, in Northern Friesland, to investigate the death of a prominent man. Lena hasn't been to the island for fourteen years, she is estranged from her only living parent and her personality is almost as complicated as the mystery itself.
When Lorenzen is assigned to the investigation she is suspicious, apparently she and Detective Superintendent Joachim Warnke have had issues in the past, and it seems unlikely she'd be asked to lead such a high profile case. I would have liked to know more about their history, but as this is the first novel in the series I am sure we will learn more in subsequent books.
The first problem for Lorenzen is that the "murder" was initially reported as a heart attack, placing Lena already two weeks behind, it seems she has been set up to fail. However, having grown up on the island, she does have an inside track; the locals are more likely to trust her than an outsider. She pairs up with rookie Amrum officer, Johann Grasmann. She finds Grasmann intelligent, albeit a bit too by the book. Lena herself has no problem calling in favors from a hacker friend and a lot of her investigation is borderline or actually illegal. Of course this was a bit problematic, as an avid mystery reader I wondered how much of her case would hold up in court. However it didn't bog down the story and Johannsen tidies things up as the novel proceeds.
As Grasmann and Lorenzen get deeper into the case a whole host of characters become suspects. The victim, Hein Bohlen, was the owner and head of a children's school, dedicated to the underprivileged. Bohlen and his wife had a rocky marriage. As the story unfolds it appears he has also had affairs, and perhaps even harassed multiple women. The weeks up until his death Bohlen was under stress, seemed distracted and quick to anger. Another issue Lorenzen uncovers is the 800,000 pounds Bohlen used to buy the school. His wife had claimed he won the money in a lottery, this proves untrue.
These and many more questions come up leading us down a twisted path. The people on the island are covering up several of dark secrets. One interesting aspect of the novel is occasionally Johannsen allows the perspective of the murderer to come through. That thought process is a good lead for the reader as they try to unravel the case. Another character is the island itself. Johannsen grew up in Northern Friesland and describes the island of Amrum vividly. The plot is compelling and the translation is excellent. I am looking forward to more novels about DI Lorenzen and to learn more about this region of the world.