The Harbor
March 14, 2022

Book Review

The Harbor

reviewed by Lou Jacobs


An atmospheric police procedural that is dark and gritty and written in literary prose. This rare complex and twisted murder mystery is the fourth in a series, following the unique team of Copenhagen police detectives, Jeppe Korner and Anette Werner.

This tale as the others can be enjoyed as a standalone, as Engberg flawlessly provides the necessary backstory. However, reading all sequentially will allow the reader to appreciate the evolution of the character, foibles, and motivation of this intriguing pair. Jeppe is cuckolded and divorced, although still dealing with grief is trying to make a burgeoning relationship work with fellow team member, Sara and her two daughters. Anette at age forty-six, is a new mother of one year and nine-month-old daughter, Gudrun, and has become the parent she has strived for, for so long, She finds herself in a body that actually, after nursing and exercising, is more sleek and attractive than she can ever recall. She now questions the worthiness and desirability of her twenty-five-year long relationship with her husband, Svend. Engberg became a Danish crime author sensation in 2016 with the release of her debut novel, The Tenant (Korner and Werner #1). It was translated and published in the US in January of 2020.

Jeppe and Anette have been assigned the investigation of a missing fifteen-year-old boy, Oscar Dreyer-Hoff, who disappeared after school. He was supposed to stay overnight at his best childhood friends house to study for an upcoming exam. He does not show up the next morning at home, and Iben says he never showed up at her house. She has no idea where he is. Was he kidnaped or did he run away? Within hours a typewritten letter arrives at the Dreyer-Hoff house. The letter is somewhat obscure, and certainly is not a ransom note. Somewhat later, a friend of the investigative team, Esther de Laurenti, reveals that it is a quote at the end of Oscar Wilde’s book, “The Picture of Dorian Grey” Could it be some type of oblique and literary suicide note? –in as much as Dorian Grey, inadvertently kills himself by slashing the painting. The Dreyer-Hoff family although prominent and wealthy, have received threatening letters in the past, due to their questionable financial dealings at the online auction house they own, which deals with art and antiquities.

A multi-faceted investigation ensues, using all members of the task force, including Sara Saidani (computer whiz) and ambitious Detective Thomas Larsen, extensive interviews and interrogation reveal many potential clues and correlations. The Search and Rescue Team scour the multiple islands and forts that make up the harbor, without success. Engberg brings to life the setting of the harbor… as the sights , smells and sounds ooze off the page. Inexplicable events start to pile up. A teacher, at Oscar’s school, Malthe Saether, is bizarrely discovered in the waste silo of the incinerator plant, by two employees of the ARC (Amager Resource Center), and one of them is Kasper Skytte. He is the process engineer at the plant and also the father of Iben. His job is to not only monitor the harmful emissions of toxic substances from the burning process, but also to optimize the use of the energy that the incinerator produces. The team interviews Lis Christensen, a fellow teacher of Malthe’s, only to have her die the next day at the train station. Did she fall under the tracks or was she pushed? Are these events a coincidence or do they bode a more sinister solution?

Engberg proves to be a master storyteller and weaves a convoluted narrative involving greed, deceit, friendship, and love that propels into a thrilling and unexpected denouement. Engberg manages to interconnect the web of spun lies, into a propulsive and suspenseful slow burn tale that is satisfying but yet has the reader yearning for more Korner and Werner mysteries.

Thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books / Scout Press for proving an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review.

The Harbor available at:


Police Procedural Features