The Last Good Man – A. J. Kazinski

Setting: Copenhagen and Venice. [Back to Scandinavia!]

Story: Niels Bentzon is a police negotiator, who needs a break. He doesn’t get one. Instead, he becomes involved in the bizarre murder conspiracy theories of a Venetian detective. People are dying around the globe, their bodies sporting a strange tattoo. There must be a connection, but what is it and how can the killings be stopped? And where will the next murder be?

Good Stuff: What this book does is take a piece of Jewish mythology – the existence of 36 Good Men on planet Earth – and wrap an interesting tale around it. I hesitate to say mystery, because this is not a standard crime book, or a mystery, but something a bit different. (Probably that’s why some reviewers did not take to it.)

So, the story is interesting, and at times challenging. It is backed by a couple of fine characters – Bentzon and Hannah Lund (a brilliant astrophysicist, always on hand to answer difficult questions) and a good wash of gothic danger. For example, Bentzon tries to do something which seems relatively easy, but circumstances conspire against hime. The sense of dread builds up well, and the climax is a fine twist.

The pattern which is involved here – the killing trail – is clever.

Not So Good Stuff: There are lots of questions posed by the story. Not so much about the plot, but about the moral issues raised. There are no obvious answers in the book, so the reader is forced to – Shock! Horror!  Probe! – think for himself. Aaargh! The pain! Ok, sarcasm aside, this will not suit everyone. But that is the biggest weakness.

The writing is fine without reaching giddy heights. One or two of the clues about what is going on are not subtle. For example, think about the main character’s name. But it’s also noticeable that the writing flows. The original text must be good and the translation does not let it down.

It’s not a piece of high literature that people at up market cocktail parties can pretend they have read. But it is thought provoking.

Not the usual fare.

Score: 8/10

Note: A. J. Kazinski is the pseudonym for Danish author duo Anders Ronnow Klarlund and Jacob Weinreich.