It’s almost impossible to properly summarize The Tenant; the careful plotting ensures that the mystery unfolds deliberately, with surprises regularly woven into the narrative. Reading it feels like watching a puzzle slowly come together before your eyes.
Set in Copenhagen, The Tenant follows detectives Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner as they investigate the brutal murder of a young woman, Julie Stender. Adding a grisly twist to the case, Julie’s face was mutilated before her killing, a fact that chills both detectives. But it’s Julie’s relationship with her landlady, budding crime novelist Esther de Laurenti, which makes her murder truly bizarre—the young woman was killed in the same manner as the victim in Esther’s unpublished manuscript.
The Tenant operates with two ensemble casts: the tenants of Esther’s building and the detectives on the Copenhagen police force. While Kørner and Werner lead the charge to bring a killer to justice, it takes a plethora of characters to get the novel to its thrilling conclusion. The intensity of the relationships between characters realistically reflects the irritations and idiosyncrasies of people who live and work together. Unlike many other crime-solving duos, Kørner and Werner occasionally grate on each other’s nerves, never quite settling into anything other than a bristly professional relationship. Similarly, the people moving in and out of Esther’s orbit have their own secrets and agendas, giving the impression that no one can be trusted.
Despite its darker elements, The Tenant is a police procedural, not a thriller, and readers should prepare for a mystery that takes its time unfolding. This a positive thing; the easy pace lets the horror of Julie’s murder sink in. Author Katrine Engberg’s English-language debut is the first in a gritty, unflinching procedural series that has received multiple awards in her native Denmark. Readers will be left craving the translation of Kørner and Werner’s next adventure.