The Hanging: A Thriller

( 2 )


One morning before school, two children find the naked bodies of five men hanging from the gym ceiling. The case leads detective Konrad Simonsen and his murder squad to the school janitor, who may know more about the killings than he is telling. Soon, Simonsen realizes that each of the five murdered men had a dark and terrible secret in common. And when Simonsen’s own daughter is targeted, he must race to find the culprit before his whole world is destroyed.

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The Hanging: A Thriller

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One morning before school, two children find the naked bodies of five men hanging from the gym ceiling. The case leads detective Konrad Simonsen and his murder squad to the school janitor, who may know more about the killings than he is telling. Soon, Simonsen realizes that each of the five murdered men had a dark and terrible secret in common. And when Simonsen’s own daughter is targeted, he must race to find the culprit before his whole world is destroyed.

Published in twenty countries around the world, with more than 150,000 copies sold in Denmark alone, this book introduces a brother and sister duo who have taken the thriller world by storm. Fast-paced, suspenseful, and brilliantly written, The Hanging is a stunning crime novel from Lotte and Soren Hammer, two Danish authors whose international fame is exploding.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The Hammers, a sister and brother writing team, make their U.S. debut with this outstanding crime thriller, which introduces Danish Det. Insp. Konrad Simonsen. Early one morning in Bagsvaerd, a Copenhagen suburb, a gruesome scene awaits the eyes of two young children, a brother and a sister, in their school gym—the naked corpses of five men hanging from the ceiling, each suspended by a single rope, each with his face mutilated. When word leaks out that the dead men were all child molesters, public opinion shifts in favor of the killer, assumed to have taken revenge on behalf of the victims of abuse. The truth is less straightforward, and the inquiry is complicated by the apparent suicide of a key witness, the school janitor, who told lie after lie in his statements to the police. Everything works in this dark Scandinavian procedural—the intelligent and complex plot, the fallible lead, and the atmospheric prose. Agent: Sofie Voller, Gyldendal (Denmark). (June)
From the Publisher
"Enthralling, pacey, and intricately plotted, The Hanging kept me on the edge of my seat and illuminated a dark corner of  Danish society." —Denise Hamilton, Edgar finalist, nationally bestselling author and editor of Los Angeles Noir

International praise for The Hanging:

"Spectacular . . . An outstanding writing achievement." —Vejle Amts Folkeblad

“One of the most ambitious Danish crime novels in ages.” —Kristeligt Dagblad  

“An extremely well-designed crime debut.”—Jyllands-Posten

“Thought-provoking and a really good read.” —Helsingor Dagblad

“An unfailing and genuine crime debut.” —Politiken

Library Journal
Two children who unfortunately arrive a little too early to school discover the naked and dismembered bodies of five men hanging from a podium in the elementary school gymnasium. Called back from his seaside vacation, DI Konrad Simonsen quickly becomes embroiled in a nightmarish investigation in which clues are difficult to decipher, leads suddenly disappear and informants are later found dead, and horrific tales of child sexual abuse begin snowballing through the Danish press and international blogosphere. Were the dead men pedophiles? Were they killed at the hands of vigilantes? Will more men soon be found murdered? As Simonsen and his investigative squad attempt to uncover the truth, the Danish public becomes increasingly and loudly in favor of the tactics employed by the shadowy team of vigilantes, believing the dead—presumed guilty—to be better off that way. VERDICT This debut thriller by two Danish siblings unfolds in chapters that flit back and forth across the perspectives of the detectives and the vigilantes: one chapter is narrated by Simonsen, another by the leader of the killers, another by a reporter, etc. This method, while illuminating detail and motive, adds confusion to the overly long tale, providing constant description rather than clarity. Further, in its central theme of violence against children and societal response to it, this novel attempts to instill an ethical depth that it ultimately cannot deliver. Still, some fans of Scandinavian crime fiction may be interested. [Previewed in Kristi Chadwick's "Following the Digital Clues: Mystery Genre Spotlight," LJ 4/15/13.]—Jennifer Rogers, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community Coll. Lib., Richmond, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Something new is rotten in the state of Denmark in this debut from a sister-and-brother team: five middle-aged men drugged, stripped, mutilated and hanged in a geometrically precise formation. DI Konrad Simonsen, head of Copenhagen's Homicide Division, is on vacation, but the holiday he's taking with Anna Mia, the 19-year-old daughter he neglected for many years, ends abruptly with the news of a grisly discovery. Someone has decorated the gym of the Langbæk School in Bagsværd with five corpses dangling from the ceiling. The hands of the victims have been removed and their faces disfigured with a chain saw, presumably to delay their identification. Without knowing who they are, Simonsen obviously has little to go on in solving their murders, and it's not surprising that his suspicion quickly falls close to home, on Per Clausen, the school's janitor. Clausen has almost enough history to make up for the blank slates of the victims. He was a brilliant student and a successful physicist until the drowning of his daughter Helene, 17, marked a reversal of his fortunes. Soon after the police question him and receive nothing but evasive responses, he vanishes. Meanwhile, Simonsen is being harassed by pesky reporter Anni Staal; local citizens, when they get wind of the likely motive for the murders, are by no means eager to help catch the killers; and members of the Homicide Squad have their own obligatory problems, especially married gambler Arne Pedersen, who's begun an affair with the squad's newest member, Pauline Berg. The case would seem hopeless if the authors didn't keep cutting away to close-ups of the conspirators responsible for the five victims' deaths: advertising executive Erik Mørk, farmer Stig Åge Thorsen, nurse Helle Smidt Jørgenson and a wraithlike killer who prefers to be called the Climber. Middling for the endless recent crop of Scandinavian procedurals apparently designed to inhibit tourism and make you glad you're staying in the temperate zone.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312656645
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 6/11/2013
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,531,905
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

LOTTE AND SOREN HAMMER are siblings. The Hanging is the first in a series following Detective Konrad Simonsen and his team from the murder squad. They live in Frederiksværk, Denmark.

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Read an Excerpt




Monday morning fog rolled in over the land in white woolly waves. The two children could hardly see a meter ahead of them as they crossed onto the school grounds. They had to find their way from memory and soon their steps became hesitant and searching. The boy was slightly behind the girl, his school bag in his arms. All of a sudden he stopped.

“Don’t go on without me.”

The girl stopped as well. The fog particles condensed in her hair, and she wiped the droplets from her brow as she patiently waited for her little brother, who was struggling to wrench his bag onto his back. He had spoken Turkish, which he rarely did, and never to her; now he was occupied with the straps and pulling harder on them, but it didn’t help. When he was finally done, he grabbed her hand. She looked around to see if she could spy the other end of the field through the mist.

She said, “Now see what you’ve done.”

“What have I done?”

He tightened his grip and sounded small.

“Nothing. You don’t understand.”

She picked a direction at random and took a few blind steps before she stopped short again. The boy pressed up against her.

“Have we gone astray?”


“It was light at Mother’s.”

“In a little while it’ll be light here too.”

“What does it mean, astray?”

She didn’t answer him, and tried to convince herself that there was nothing to be afraid of, that the school grounds weren’t particularly large, that they should just keep going.

“We aren’t allowed to go off with strangers. No matter what, we can’t go off with strangers. Isn’t that right?”

She could hear that he was on the verge of tears and she pulled him along behind her in a series of uncertain steps, until she suddenly saw a slight glow diagonally in front of her and steered toward it.

Shortly afterward they were in the corridor in front of the gymnasium. The girl was sitting on a bench, reading, and her brother came running with a ball in his arms.

“Do you want to play ball with me? You’re so good at it.”

“Have you hung your clothes up properly and set your bag down in its place?”

He nodded, wide-eyed, the embodiment of sincerity.

“Come on, go and do it.”

He lumbered off without objection, but was soon back and repeated his desire to play.

“I have something I have to read first. You start and I’ll be there in a bit.”

He glanced skeptically at her book. It was thick.

“Promise you’ll come soon?”

“As soon as I’ve finished this chapter. Go in and play on your own. It won’t be long.”

He ran into the gym and soon she heard the sounds of a bouncing ball. She kept reading. From time to time she closed her eyes and imagined she was a part of the story.

The boy interrupted her.

“There isn’t room to play,” he called out.

“Why not?”

“Because some men are hanging up in here.”

“So go around them.”

Suddenly he was in front of her. She hadn’t heard him approach.

“I don’t like the men.”

The girl sniffed the air a couple of times.

“Have you farted?”

“No, but I don’t like the dead men. They’ve been cut up.”

She got up angrily and walked over to the doorway to the gymnasium, her brother at her heels.

Five people were hanging from the ceiling, each suspended by a single rope. They were naked and facing toward her.

“Aren’t they gross?”

“Yes,” she said and closed the door.

She put her arm around the boy.

“Can we play ball now?”

“No, we can’t. We have to find an adult.”


Copyright © 2012 by Lotte Hammer Jakobson and Søren Hammer Jakobson

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 4, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    well, it took forever to get this book. I mean months and months

    well, it took forever to get this book. I mean months and months. I was excited to start reading it until I started reading it. The theme of child abuse is what kept me reading, thinking and why the 3 stars instead of just 2.

    two kids find five naked men hanging from their school's gym ceiling. Detective Konrad Simonsen is on the case. Is the killer the school janitor who knows more than he wants to tell?
    Detective Konrad finds out all the dead men have deep dark secrets and maybe even his daughter has some too.
    The dialogue is off and somehow stilted, I don't know if this is because of the translation, maybe the editing or if this is the way the authors, a brother sister duo talk. The characters are interesting enough. I usually love page turning Nordic thrillers, this was not it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The question raised in this novel is simple: In a democracy, is

    The question raised in this novel is simple: In a democracy, is murder justified for obvious criminal transgressions like child abuse and pedophilia? It seems that in Denmark, these behaviors are treated lightly, and a small group of men set about to increase public awareness by murdering five men, guilty of such behaviors, hanging them nude and mutilated from a school gym ceiling. The homicide squad, led by detective Konrad Simonsen, has to work to solve the case in face of the favorable public attitude toward the perpetrators.

    Basically, the novel is a police procedural, but is unnecessarily slow and plodding. Whether the reason is the writing or the translation cannot be determined. There are some intriguing elements to the plot, such as a devious scheme (however illegal) to draw out the murderer. Also, on the other side, a clever public relations program conducted by the plotters to bring about reform and tightening of the laws governing the crimes and support of the victims. Interesting questions, to be sure.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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