Saturday, April 23, 2022

The Corpse Flower by Anne Mette Hancock


I bought this impulsively a while back when it went on sale. I actually don't tend to like most Scandinavian thrillers-- they tend to be too dark for little old me, and normally they have stuffy old man protagonists. But I loved the title of this one and I was really intrigued by the fact that the protagonist of this one was a wrongfully disgraced journalist. So I picked it up and began to read-- and couldn't put it down.

Heloise got into big trouble with her paper when she accidentally used a bad source to write a bad article. Now her paper is trying to placate some extremely powerful people while also doing damage control, and Heloise is on thin ice. To make matters worse, she's getting vaguely threatening text messages and letters from a woman who is wanted by Interpol for the murder of a golden boy lawyer, Christopher Mossing.

Erik Scháfer, a Danish homicide cop, ends up working on the case, and is disconcerted to find that the facts don't add up. Why would the murderess Anna Kiel reach out to Heloise, of all people? What is the connection between them? Because it does look like there is a connection, and it involves corpse flowers, medieval history, and crimes committed by the very dregs of society who will do anything to prevent their coming to light.

When rating and reviewing a book I like, it's always difficult to compare a book to others I have liked. Yes, I liked it, but HOW much did I like it, how does it compare to other books in the genre, and would I recommend it to other people? Does it have reread value and will it stick with me for years to come? Or is it just a passing piece of fluff that I used to satisfy a brief hunger before moving on to something more substantial? These are all questions I ask myself every time I read the book, no matter what the genre.

With regard to THE CORPSE FLOWER, I thought it was exceptional. I normally don't like police procedurals at all because I feel like they tend to glamorize and romanticize a rather flawed justice system, but the characters in THE CORPSE FLOWER own that, acknowledging that justice can often me too lenient for the privileged, and too harsh on the undeserving, while also letting serious convictions slip through the cracks in favor of lesser crimes. It has several of my favorite tropes, too: strong but damaged women, a Suspicious Hot Guy (hi Martin), and all sorts of really interesting side-tangents about history, culture, and science that end up tying symbolically into the plot.

Compared to other books in the genre, it's a stand-out. It's dark and disturbing and parts of it genuinely tore at my heart, but it also has an incredibly satisfying ending and I seriously can't wait for the English translation of the sequel to come out in November. I've already recommended this book to two other people and I think it's going to haunt me for a while. Anna and Heloise are both wonderful characters and as a feminist, I just love seeing flawed women characters being allowed to exist and act with agency, even if their agency propels them to do things that aren't necessarily just, moral, or right.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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