Crystal Nights by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen

I recently read Crystal Nights: a Scandinavian mystery by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen, who kindly sent me an e-version of the ARC of her book. The Danish edition of the book, Krystalnætter, won a national competition in 2013.

Once I started reading Crystal Nights I was hooked. It begins with an extract from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, a fairy tale about the struggle between good and evil, when a magic mirror was smashed into many pieces, which then entered the eyes, hearts and minds of people infecting them with evil.

Crystal Nights moves between events in Germany in 1938 to Kalum, a fictional village in Denmark, in the 1960s. In Berlin in 1938 Jewish families, including the Stein family, Simon, his wife Sara, and Miriam and Isaac, their two young children flee from the events of Krystallnacht, the “night of broken glass”.  Their journey doesn’t get them to safety though and ends with Sara desperate as her son becomes dangerously ill and Simon refuses to get medical help.

Moving on to the 1960s in Kalum, the story divides into the years 1963 and 1967. In 1963 a middle-aged smallholder from Brook Farm, north of Kalum is killed in a road accident. The relevance of this death only becomes apparent towards the end of the book. In 1967 a young boy, Lars-Ole disappears. His mother believes he had gone to stay with his father, but eventually everybody except for his friend Niels, assumes he is dead although his body has not been found. Niels finds Lars-Ole’s notebook, in which he had written some coded messages and sets out to discover what has happened to him, putting himself into great danger.

I particularly liked the comparison between Andersen’s fairy tale and the events of Krystallnicht and I think the characters of both Lars-Ole and Niels are well-drawn, with the village setting in the 1960s particularly convincing. I was carried away by the story, a story of how evil touched so many lives with such terrible consequences and how by patience and perseverance the truth was revealed.

You can see photos and maps showing the area in this picture companion to the book.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 820 KB
  • Print Length: 187 pages
  • Publisher: Candied Crime; 1 edition (6 May 2015)
  • Source: Review copy from the author

Reading Challenges: Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2016

She Never Came Home by Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen

She Never Came Home is a perfect little ghost story for Halloween. Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen spins a suspenseful story of Alice and her husband Peter and their little dog, Foxy as they move into an old farmhouse deep in the Danish countryside. Just why is Foxy nervous about the cupboard under the sink, what is in the bedrooms upstairs that are excluded from their tenancy agreement, and why has the house been empty for over thirty years?

Both Peter and Alice are out of work, but Peter still has to work out his notice in Germany and leaves Alice alone in the house… Alice slowly discovers the horrible truth.

I really liked this short story, with its chilling atmosphere and shocking twist at the end. In just a few pages Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen has written such a compelling and entertaining tale.

This is my last entry in this year’s R.I.P. challenge and another one for the My Kind of Mystery challenge.

She Never Came Home – FREE for Halloween!

She never came home

To celebrate Halloween, Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen has made her latest ghost story, She Never Came Home, free today and tomorrow.

Short story of 9,000 words – crime & ghosts. 

Grab it while you can, and feel free to share the news with your friends or blog readers – and remember to keep the lights on! 


North Sea Cottage by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen

Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen’s latest book, North Sea Cottage, is an e-book, a novella set in Denmark. It’s another dual time period book – it seems that each book I’ve read recently is one of these. This one is split between the present day and 1943/4 and it works very well.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book; the cottage in the title is owned by Tora’s aunt, Bergatora. As soon as I began reading I was immediately transported in place away to the other side of the North Sea to Denmark with Tora, and in time back to the Second World War, with her aunt, Bergatora. In just a few words Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen draws a vivid picture of the old fisherman’s cottage surrounded by dense sea fog.

Tora is struggling to overcome her own problems when she is faced with a new problem. The old stable next to the cottage catches fire during a thunder storm and in the aftermath of the fire Tora finds a skeleton in the potato cellar under the ruined stable. Who is it who had died in the cellar? Bergatora is reluctant to talk about the war years and her brother, Tora’s father, was too young at the time to help. It was a time when Denmark was under German occupation and a resistance movement was under way. Inspector Thomas Bilgren suspects the victim may have been related to the German occupation.

Tora, helped by Bilgren attempts to discover the truth, but is hampered by the strong character of her aunt and the silence surrounding what happened during the war. I loved this aspect of the book – the delving back into history, the way the narrative switches backwards and forwards, gradually revealing what had happened. North Sea Cottage is only about 90 pages but it has depth both in mystery and in characterisation and the setting is so atmospheric. I was fearful for Tora’s safety as she dug deeper into the mysteries from the past.

Thanks to Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen, who kindly sent me a copy of her book. She has a blog – Djskrimiblog and used to be a teacher. She writes both serious mysteries as well as humorous and cosy stories about the Gershwin family in Knavesborough, a fictional village in Yorkshire, publishing in Danish and English. I like her humorous stories but prefer the serious ones like North Sea Cottage and her previous novel, Anna Märklin’s Family Chronicles. She is currently at work on her next novel – Crystal Nights, to be published in 2014/5.

Knavesborough Stories by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen

Recently Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen kindly made two of her short stories available to me (e-books) for review. They are both about the Gershwin family in Knavesborough, a fictional village in Yorkshire, namely Ding Dong Bell, the Kitten in the Well and Green Acres. I often find short stories lack the necessary depth to be convincing – either weak plots and/or characterisation, but these short stories are both convincing and satisfying. Maybe it helps that they are continuations of other stories, or in the case of Ding Dong Bell, the Kitten in the Well, a prequel.

Ding Dong Bell, the Kitten in the Well goes back in time to Rhapsody Gershwin’s childhood in the early 1990s. Rhapsody is the vicar’s daughter first featured in The Cosy Knave. In this short story Rhapsody and her sisters are worried about the disappearance of the black kitten they have called Black Pete. The last time they had seen him was when they had played in old Ursula Abbot’s garden and they wondered if he had he got locked in her cottage. Ursula had died but as she was nearly ninety it wasn’t entirely an unexpected death … but she had been in good health. Is Ursula’s death connected to Black Pete’s disappearance?Rhapsody helps to solve the mystery.

Green Acres* takes us to the latest in the Gershwin and Penrose Mysteries series. Green Acres, once a country mansion, has been converted into a home for the elderly. Rhapsody visits Rowan Dougal, a farmer who has broken his hip and is currently living at Green Acres. Lavinia Banbury staying in the room next to Rowan dies in her sleep. Nothing unusual in an old people’s home, but is her death really a natural one?

Green Acres* was originally published in the anthology The Red Shoes. This is a new and longer version.

I like these stories. They’re humorous crime fiction, with colourful characters all with quirky names. There’s no blood and gore and each story has an unexpected twist at the end. In other words, they are cosy crimes (if any crime could really be considered as ‘cosy’, that is).

Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen is Danish. After many years as a teacher she is now concentrating on a writing career, publishing in both Danish and English. As well as writing her cosy mysteries she has also written a full length psychological murder mystery novel, Anna Marklin’s Family Chronicles, which I thoroughly enjoyed too – see my post here.

Anna Märklin's Family Chronicles by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen

This is the second book by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen that I’ve read. I liked the first one The Cosy Knave, but I liked her latest book, Anna Märklin’s Family Chronicles even more. The Cosy Knave, as the title suggests, is humorous and rather quirky, whereas Anna Märklin’s Family Chronicles is a psychological mystery and not at all cosy.

Set in Denmark in the present day with flashbacks to Sweden (where her father’s family came from) during the early part of at the beginning of the twentieth century, Anna Storm finds herself with beset with problems. Her father is seriously ill and strangely secretive about his family background:

There were so many things her father did not want to talk about. Illness and death, war and accidents. Things did not change for the better because you talked about them  he claimed.

Anna longs to know more and when she finds her grandmother’s journal she is enthralled. But digging into the past can reveal secrets that you might not want to know.

At the same time she is concerned about Karin, her best friend and neighbour, whose life is under threat for reasons Karin doesn’t divulge. When Anna can’t contact Karin, either by phone or at home, she eventually uses Karin’s spare key to enter her flat and finds her lying dead on the kitchen floor. it looks as though she slipped and hit her head – but was it really an accident?

Anna Märklin’s Family Chronicles has depth both in mystery and in characterisation and the setting is superb. I was transported in time and place as I read and fearful for Anna’s safety as she dug deeper into the mysteries surrounding her. I really enjoyed this book and hope that Dorte Jakobsen will write more in this vein.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 439 KB
  • Publisher: Candied Crime (18 Dec 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Source: my copy supplied by the author
  • My Rating: 4/5

Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen is a teacher from Denmark, teaching English at upper secondary level. In her spare time she reads and writes crime fiction in English and Danish, and in 2010 she sold her first flash stories to American magazines or publishers. One story appeared in Discount Noir (edited by Ste Weddle & Patricia Abbott).

Since then she has published two collections of flash fiction, “Candied Crime” (humour) and “Liquorice Twists” (a bit darker). Her bestsellers are the romantic ghost story “Heather Farm” (suspense plus romance in the Dunes near the Danish west coast) and the cosy novel “The Cosy Knave” (European title: “Murder deLight”).

For an interview with Dorte see Linda Rae Blair’s website.