Thriller Thursday Audio: The Corpse Flower by Anne Mette Hancock
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Series: Book 1 of Kaldan og Schäfer
Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC (October 12, 2021)
Length: 8 hrs and 1 min
Author Information: Website
Narrator: Laura Jennings
The Corpse Flower was an interesting one. It certainly wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. Of course, it being translated from its original language may have something to do with my lukewarm attitude towards it, because everything, from the writing to the characters, just felt so lifeless. It seems that even if you do manage to find the right words for everything, that’s no guarantee any of their presence or emotional weight will come through along with the translation.
Our story takes place in Copenhagen, where journalist Heloise Kaldan is investigating a case from a few years ago involving the grisly murder of prominent attorney Christoffer Mossing. The police had a solid lead on the suspect, a woman named Anna Kiel who was caught on security cameras boldly leaving the scene of the crime with the murder weapon in her hand and blood smeared all over her body. However, Anna’s whereabouts are currently unknown. The woman seems to have vanished into thin air ever since those last images of her were captured.
But then one day, Heloise starts receiving messages addressed to her at the Demokratisk Dagblad paper where she works. The sender identifies herself as Anna Kiel, claiming to have reached out because of a hidden connection between the two of them. To prove this, Anna has included cryptic references to amorphophallus titanum, also known as the corpse flower native to the rainforests of Sumatra, which has special significance to Heloise’s private life. Rattled, our protagonist begins digging into Anna’s history by contacting her fellow journalists and sources at the police, but receives only dire warnings to stay away. Anna Kiel is dangerous, they say, and even real estate tycoon Johannes Mossing, the father of the murdered lawyer, seems strangely reluctant in pursuing justice for his son. But Heloise is undeterred. Anna has gone to great lengths to try to get her attention, and Heloise won’t rest until she finds out why.
While it might not seem like it from the brief summary above, this story does venture into some very dark places. If you don’t want to be exposed to certain highly traumatic, deeply upsetting topics such as child trafficking and sexual abuse, I would stay far away from The Corpse Flower, and I mean it. It’s not an easy book to read, and things in it do get quite disturbing.
Those caveats aside though, the plot itself is admittedly rather typical of a mystery—nothing to write home about, even if perfectly readable. My problem, as I mentioned before, is that I never truly felt connected to any of the characters or had much enthusiasm for the story. Everything about the book felt muted, soulless, simply lacking in energy, and again I feel like maybe this had something to do with a certain quality of the original prose being lost in the translation process. This makes it harder to review a book like this.
Still, the story had its moments. Heloise’s determination for answers drove the plot nicely, and her subsequent hunt for Anna was an interesting game of cat and mouse to follow, despite being permeated throughout by the heaviness of those aforementioned themes. Scandinavian noir or crime mystery is also an exciting subgenre for me, as I find it fascinating to explore new places and read about the way investigations are run in these settings.
I also enjoyed the audiobook. If there were moments where Laura Jennings’ narration felt a little flat, it was most likely due to the limitations of the prose. Overall though, this must have been a pretty difficult story to read, but she did an admirable job.