Danish writer Inger Wolf’s “Evil Water” is a taut, suspenseful thriller with unexpected twists and several wrong turns. Just when you think you have it figured out, you, and quite often the police, are wrong.
Wolf has published several books in Denmark, but “Evil Water” is her first English translation. Her debut novel, “Sort Sensommer,” was sold in several countries and was named “Most Exciting Crime Novel Debut” by the Danish Crime Academy in 2006. Live “Evil Water,” it features inspector Daniel Trokic, who is also the central character in several of her other novels.
The story focuses on the disappearance to two women with similar colored hair. When their bodies are found packed into two separate suitcases and buried in a farmer’s field, Trokic and his team try to find out who is responsible and why. Adding to the mystery is the letter “Y” which appears on them, and the rare, American flower growing out of their hair.
The tension quickly builds when they realize they are looking for a serial killer with an unknown motive. The crime element almost takes a back seat to the horror element, but this is no supernatural horror. Wolf is delving into darkest corners of the human psyche, and creates a death ritual which will likely keep you awake at night (and away from your bathtub). As other victims appear, Trokic and the others race to find another person before she becomes a victim. And just when they close in on the killer, Wolf throws you for another curve.
Wolf creates so many threads and offshoots, that at times she seems to forget about them. But then, they suddenly reappear and fit neatly into place. She avoids the obvious, artificial solutions and patiently keeps piecing elements together, only to show that when put together, another piece is missing.
Trokic is a classic, hard-boiled detective, with an intense, quiet air about him. His character could use more depth, but since this is her fifth novel about him, perhaps the earlier novels introduce him more (but as of yet, these are not available in English). He has moved up in his career, but regrets needing to spend more time with budgets than investigations. And we see him balancing the need for a personal life with his on the case obsessive qualities.
Of the other characters, police officer and computer expert Lisa Kornelius is one of most interesting. A woman in an all male domain, she refuses to be beaten by another computer expert’s encryption techniques. And when she does break in, she also pushes the moral code for both personal and professional reasons. She questions whether what she does is illegal or immoral, and she has to balance that with whether what she learns could save a life. Her struggles with ethical dilemmas show a struggle few of us will face, but it is good to see a character asking questions for which there are not always answers.
While the Danish names make take some getting used to, you are quickly transported along in the investigation. Wolf intersperses police chapters with those from the killer’s and victim’s points of view, but without revealing any of the mystery. As such, you have an extra step on the police, but the information is not likely to help you solve it any sooner.
In true crime thriller fashion, Wolf keeps you guessing right to the end. And you will guess wrong. But that makes the book only more interesting.
Wolf has published the book with her own publishing house, Black Cat Edition, and it is currently available as an ebook. Her own website is in Danish, but check out her Amazon page for a short English introduction.