Book Excerpt: A Sadistic Killer’s on the Loose in Katrine Engberg’s The Tenant

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January 24 2020
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If you’re a sucker for moody Scandinavian crime dramas (a.k.a. Nordic Noir) like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Killing, and Marcella, then The Tenant is most definitely for you. But even if you’re not and simply enjoy a good murder mystery, you’ve gotta check out The Tenant. In Katrine Engberg’s debut novel, translated from her native Danish, veteran Copenhagen police partners Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner (yep, Korner and Werner) catch a doozy of a case together: the vicious slaying of a young woman in her first-floor apartment. The twist? Her landlady and upstairs neighbor, aspiring author Esther de Laurenti, has somehow predicted details of the murder in her manuscript. Is Esther involved, or is something else going on? The twists and turns of this bizarre case will keep you guessing until the end.

And for a taste of what to expect, read on for a special excerpt from The Tenant in which homicide detective Jeppe Korner first arrives at the crime scene…

Forensic pathologist Nyboe held
court in the kitchen. Jeppe nodded to him and received a grim face in return.
The dead girl lay with her head pressed up against the wall, abandoned like a
piece of lost property on yet another multicolored rag rug. She was wearing
cutoff jeans, a white lace bra, and sneakers. Her long hair lay in sticky
tentacles, like a child’s drawing of the sun around her head.

Momentarily stifled, Jeppe
leaned against the wall, peered at the floor, and pretended to be pensive.
Stood for a moment and breathed until the onset of nausea passed and his heart
rate came down. Tried not to listen to the rhythm of his racing pulse, tried
not to fear the anxiety.

Ten years in Homicide had long
since taught him to handle mutilated bodies without being sick, but he was
never fully relaxed at a crime scene. Maybe it had to do with the sensitivity
that emerges in us with age. The awareness that death is a fundamental fact of
life. Or maybe it was just the cocktail of pills he had taken in the car on his
way, to take the edge off his back pain. The doctors had long since ruled out a
slipped disc, more than insinuating that his pain was psychosomatic, but what
did they know?

He let go of the wall and
approached the body. The second we die, we become someone’s job. In some ways a
crime scene is reminiscent of a theater production. A web of silent agreements
that, taken altogether, makes up a whole. On cue. Jeppe had a secret, shameful
affinity for the dynamics of the crime scene and its intimate rhythms. But this
one was different. Worse. Who was she, the young woman who was being dabbed up
and put into bags? Why had she, specifically, been robbed of a career,
marriage, children?

He thought uncomfortably of the
family he would have to inform once they had identified her. The fear that
would fill their eyes when he introduced himself, the hope that came right
after—an uncle, we can certainly spare an uncle. And then, when it turned out
it was someone far too close to them: tears, screaming—or worse yet, silent
acceptance. He had never gotten used to that part of the job.

Jeppe squatted down beside the
forensic pathologist.

“Hey, Nyboe. What’ve we got?”

Nyboe was a distinguished,
modern gentleman. Like most medical professionals, he presumed everyone
understood what he was talking about, leaving the layperson in the dark in just
a few sentences. He was the chief medical examiner and highly respected, but Jeppe
didn’t especially like him. The feeling seemed mutual.

“This is pretty bad,” Nyboe
said, for once not snootily. “The victim is a woman in her early twenties. She
has been subjected to serious violence and received multiple deep stab wounds.
There are lesions on her head from blunt-force trauma with a heavy object. Her
tympanic temperature was eighty-two point four degrees, and rigor mortis was
well underway when I arrived scarcely an hour ago. The death thus likely
occurred sometime between ten o’clock last night and four this morning. But as
you know, I can’t say anything with certainty yet. No immediate signs of sexual
assault. The lacerations on her hands and arms suggest she defended herself,
but there were also some . . . well . . . cuts inflicted before death.”

“You’re saying she was cut before
she died?” Jeppe asked.

Nyboe nodded seriously as they
both fell silent. This would obviously cause an uproar in the media and instill
a general state of panic, not to mention the reaction of the poor next of kin.

“Her face is quite battered,
but luckily she has a tattoo, which will make identification easier. Well, you
should probably take a look at the carvings.”

“Carvings?” Jeppe caught
Nyboe’s eye.

“The perpetrator cut lines in
the victim’s face. I’m no art expert, but it looks to me like a kind of paper
cutting.” Nyboe sighed resignedly.

“Paper cutting? What’s that
supposed to mean?” Jeppe said, furrowing his brow.

“It appears our perpetrator has
carved us a little gækkebrev.

Nyboe took hold of the body’s
chin and carefully tilted the bloody face up into the kitchen’s sharp light.
The pattern cut into the face resembled the traditional paper cuttings that
Danish children make for Easter.

Jeppe’s expectations for the
day went from bad to worse.

Excerpted from The Tenant by Katrine Engberg, translated
from the Danish by Tara Chace
Copyright © 2016 by Katrine Engberg.
Translation copyright © 2020 by Tara Chance. Used by permission of the
publisher. All rights reserved.

This post was originally published on

The Tenant
Katrine Engberg

#1 international bestseller

An Indie Next Pick
An O, The Oprah Magazine Titles to Pick Up Now
A People Book Pick
A New York Post Best Book of the Week
A theSkimm Best Book to Read This Winter
A BookPage Top Ten Books for February
A Parade Most Anticipated Books of Early 2020
A Bustle Most Anticipated Books of January 2020
A CrimeReads Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2020
A She Reads Most Anticipated Thrillers of 2020

An electrifying work of literary suspense from international bestselling author Katrine Engberg, this stunning debut introduces two police detectives struggling to solve a shocking murder and stop a killer hell-bent on revenge.

When a young woman is discovered brutally murdered in her own apartment, with an intricate pattern of lines carved into her face, Copenhagen police detectives Jeppe Korner and Anette Werner are assigned to the case. In short order, they establish a link between the victim, Julie Stender, and her landlady, Esther de Laurenti, who’s a bit too fond of drink and the host of raucous dinner parties with her artist friends. Esther also turns out to be a budding novelist—and when Julie turns up as a murder victim in the still-unfinished mystery she’s writing, the link between fiction and real life grows both more urgent and more dangerous.

But Esther’s role in this twisted scenario is not quite as clear as it first seems. Is she the culprit—or just another victim, trapped in a twisted game of vengeance? Anette and Jeppe must dig more deeply into the two women’s pasts to discover the identity of the brutal puppet-master pulling the strings in this electrifying literary thriller.

Hailed as “inconceivably thrilling” (Fyens Stiftstidende, Denmark), The Tenant is a work of stunning originality that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

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