17 Jan 2012

Review: "The Dinosaur Feather" by Sissel-Jo Gazan

I read this novel just after I moved to London from Copenhagen and it really really reminded me of the city that I had just left. If ever a thriller/crime fiction novel would give you a feeling for a place at a certain point in times, this is the one. From page one it captures Copenhagen in the 2000's. A wealthy university city where it is possible to study for years and dedicate oneself to pursuing a degree - even while being a single mother. Anna Bella is both a single mother and a student, trying to juggle writing her all-consuming thesis and caring for her cute daughter while still nursing a broken heart after her boyfriend left her.

Anna Bella is just a few weeks away from finalizing her thesis on the origin of the feather - is a bird really a modern-day dinosaur? - when her supervisor Lars Helland dies. A violent death. In his office. Suddenly the small department at the Institute of Biology at University of Copenhagen is turned upside-down and there is a split between the people who admired Helland and those who (like Anna Bella) found him a pain.
Onto the scene arrives police detective Soeren Marhauge who has his own demons to battle and who now have to try to find out what has happened and who has killed Lars Helland. In his investigation he has to try to coax information out of the surly Anna Bella who somehow seems to be in the midst of the investigation.

This is both a very classic and a very different murder mystery. Classic because it features the tough girl and the damaged-goods police investigator - different because the scene is set the Institute of Biology and because there is a lot of focus on the discussion of the origin of the feather. It is a pretty different mix but it  really really works - at least it does for me.

I loved the parts that were all about dinosaurs and normally I am really not into that topic. Also I found myself warming to the difficult, taciturn Anna Bella, who is no charmer but who really just is trying to cope with all the demands of her life and to get over a nasty break-up. The background story on the detective Soeren was also really engaging and beliveable. Actually I think that the characters completely overshadowed the mystery part which is just how I like it.

Read it if: You love Scandinavian crime fiction. Or crime fiction with a twist. Or if you ever wonder if that seagull really is a dinosaur in disguise.


  1. What an interesting backdrop for a crime fiction novel! Great review!!!

  2. Thanks Amy - it is quite cool, very different from other crime fiction novels.