Danish writer Jesper Stein worked as a journalist, critic and crime reporter for more than 10 years, before he made his literary debut as crime fiction author in 2012. His novel Unrest was the first installment in a series starring Detective Inspector Axel Steen in Copenhagen and now it is followed up with Die for Me.
Unrest takes place at Nørrebro, the most multi-ethnic district in Copenhagen, which became a center of political resistance and riots in 2007. These events form the background for the story, where the hooded and tortured body of a man is found in a cemetery during one of the riots. Due to the circumstances many policemen were on guard, so how could anyone be murdered and left in the open without the police noticing?
DI Axel Steen is assigned the case, which quickly becomes complicated involving deported immigrants, drug dealing, left-wing journalists and the Danish security services. The case gets more personal as the body count goes up, but Axel will not stop until the killer is caught, whatever the consequences.
In the sequel Die for Me a serial rapist is terrorizing women in Copenhagen. The police investigation is hampered by the absence of evidence, but also by prejudice and incompetence within the police force. When a DNA sample links the attacks to an old case, where a young girl was found murdered, Axel Steen gets involved.
That particular unsolved case made him push the limits four years earlier and cost him his marriage and almost his job. Now advanced technology enhances the odds and Axel is becoming obsessed about solving these cases once and for all. He wants the women to feel safe on the streets and sets out on a desperate search for a perpetrator who will stop at nothing to outwit the police.
Axel Steen is a complex and captivating character. He lives in Nørrebro, an ever-buzzling part of Copenhagen, where most of the inhabitants come from all parts of the world. His private life is chaotic, he cannot forget his ex-wife and uses hash to calm down and to be able to sleep. He adores his five-year-old daughter but has trouble making time for her, when work demands his attention. He is a brilliant investigator and takes his job very seriously. He is extremely determined and has an independent streak that puts him in conflict with his superiors. He has deep empathy with the victims and will stop at nothing to put the perpetrators behind bars, but he often treads a fine line between doing his job and being fired. As a reader you often wonder how much further he can push himself without crashing completely.
Jesper Stein uses his experiences as a crime reporter in his novels and he knows the city of Copenhagen very well, both the seafronts and the green parks where students and visitors stroll and the dark gritty underside, where gangs and drug dealers rule. The settings are excellent and he succeeds in creating intriguing plots with many twists and turns – and unexpected endings. But it is the fascinating character Axel Steen, who brings the stories to life and makes you eagerly look out for the next item in the series.