The Tenant by Katrine Engberg
This book was abysmal. The main problem seems to be a combination of lackluster plot and stilted translation.
Esther de Laurenti is a retired university professor who has started writing a mystery novel, fancying herself the next Dorothy L. Sayers. She is also a landlord, and has fashioned her fictional murder victim after one of her tenants (and the best landlord of the year award goes to…). When her tenant turns up murdered in real life, the details are shockingly similar to her yet unfinished novel, which she’s only shared via Google Docs with a couple of people in her writing group. Then, the murderer starts writing in the Google Doc (How?! Oh my!), adding details and taunting her.
Two incompetent detectives are on the hunt, Jeppe and Anette – partners who can’t stand each other. We learn some about Anette, but the main focus is on Jeppe who is a mess. He’s freshly divorced, a drug addict, and makes questionable life choices like bleaching his hair platinum blonde and wearing skinny jeans (both at the urging of his best friend who serves no other purpose in the book). Jeppe also seems to feel intense loathing for every woman in his life, except the wife of a murder suspect whom he of course sleeps with. His mother is described as overbearing, his partner Anette as a bulldog with no tact, the murder victim a slut, and Esther a dotty old woman.
Miracle of miracles, they do solve the crime in the end.
We’re introduced to a revolving door of character names and physical descriptions, but very little-to-no personality for any of them. I had a hard time remembering who was who, and most of them served no purpose for the plot. Even the main characters were flat. I learned more about Jeppe’s penis than his personality, both of which were unimpressive.
Overall, this is a very dry police procedural with a couple of sex scenes thrown in and some additional fantasizing on the part of Jeppe (in one fantasy the suspect’s wife makes him chili and then they have shower sex. I mean, to each their own I guess, but nothing about that sounds appealing). Because the rest of the book is oh-so-serious and dull, the sex scenes, fantasies, and enthusiastic descriptions of his penis felt contrived. And sleeping with a suspect’s wife – really? Come on. He literally meets her once and then falls into bed with her a couple times only to be crushed when she what? Doesn’t leave her rich husband for the washed up, bleach-blonde addict detective? Okay.
There were a few eye-rolling times where characters would say something along the lines of “what are we – in a crime novel?!” which was so cringey. We get it. This is a crime novel within a crime novel within a crime novel. The characters don’t need to announce it every other chapter.
There’s an over abundance of details throughout that don’t serve the plot in any way. For example, while I’m glad that Anette and Jeppe have “adjustable height desks” at the police station, I’m not sure why I needed to know that unless someone gets murdered on one at some point (they don’t).
The translation is stilted most of the time, and super awkward in places. At one point, the bad guy is described as a “knife murderer” which, while completely accurate, is a weird way to say it. I’m also going to hope the chili and sex reference was just a bad translation, but who knows.
Overall, there were too many characters, none of whom had enough personality to hold a book with such a subpar plot together. The publisher should’ve just titled the book The Google Doc Murders. At least then readers would’ve had a hint at what a dry and contrived book this was going to be.
This review originally appeared on NetGalley. I received a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for my honest review of this title.
Book cover image courtesy of Gallery / Scout Press.