Posted in Netgalley

The Butterfly House by Katrine Engberg

In the coronary care unit at one of Copenhagen’s leading medical centres, a nurse fills a syringe with an overdose of heart medication and stealthily enters the room of an older male patient.

Six days earlier, a paperboy on his route in the centre of the city stumbles upon a macabre find: the body of a dead woman, lying in a fountain, her arms marked with small incisions. Cause of death? Exsanguination – the draining of all the blood in her body. Clearly, this is no ordinary murder.

Jeppe Kørner, recovering from a painful divorce and in the throes of a new relationship, takes on the investigation. His partner, Anette Werner, now on leave after an unexpected pregnancy, is restless at home. While Jeppe leads the official search, Anette can’t stop herself from doing a little detective work as well. But operating on her own exposes her to dangers she can’t even begin to realise.

As the investigation ventures into dark and dangerous corners, it uncovers an ambition and greed festering beneath the surface of caregiving institutions, all leading back to the mysterious Butterfly House . . .

I hadn’t come across the first novel in this series, but was intrigued by this pair of detectives. They seemed to bring something different to the role and life of a detective. The murders in the novel are particularly disturbing given that they take place within a hospital – usually a place of healing. An elderly patient in the coronary unit is killed by a syringe drawn up with an overdose of his heart medication. Six days earlier, a boy on his paper round found a dead woman in a fountain in the town centre. She died due to exsanguination, blood letting from thousands of tiny cuts, and her final moments must have been excruciating. Are the two cases linked and will Detectives Korner and Werner be able to find the killer?

I loved that Werner was home on maternity leave, bored and itching to join in on the investigation. I think, very realistically, she’s struggling with feeling powerless and dealing with the fact her pregnancy was unplanned. She didn’t expect it and can’t stop herself doing some detective work from home. However the problem with snooping alone is that she’s exposed to dangers she wouldn’t normally have to consider. Will she put herself in in harms way? Her partner, Korner, is coping with the aftermath of a painful divorce and now a new relationship. Will his mind be on the job? Together, this investigation will lead them into a dark corner of public institutions – their equivalent in this country would be social services and the NHS. Corruption and exploitation within these institutions seems likely as they continue their investigations.

The characterisation is brilliant. I really connected with Werner. Her husband has adapted well to unexpected fatherhood and can’t really relate to her struggle. Werner is 44 and feels the body she’s been connected to all her life, doesn’t belong to her anymore. The baby cries endlessly and she feels complete indifference. Her head’s still at work and she feels exhausted. Intrigued by what’s happening in her absence, she has a police scanner and makes fake runs for nappies in order to keep up with the case. The strength of her partnership with Jeppe shows in how much he’s missing her presence in the investigation, even for the qualities that really irritated him usually. I warmed to him too as he struggles on with a partner he can’t connect with and who can’t keep up with him. These people felt so real to me and the authors description of their worlds is just as immersive. I could imagine myself in this city, in the autumn air that the author describes. I found the medical histories of the victims fascinating and became really involved with the mental health and psychiatric aspects. The pace of the narrative was just right, fast enough to keep me reading while providing enough detail to pull me into the case. Often with thrillers I can feel short changed or rushed into a conclusion, but here the twists felt real and the conclusion was satisfying. This novel had everything I enjoy about the Nordic Noir genre and I will be following this series with great interest.

Published 14th Jan 2021 by Hodder and Stoughton.

Meet The Author

A former dancer and choreographer with a background in television and theater, Katrine Engberg launched a groundbreaking career as a novelist with the publication of her fiction debut, The Tenant. She is now one of the most widely read and beloved crime authors in Denmark, and her work has been sold in over twenty-five countries. She lives with her family in Copenhagen.


Hello, I am Hayley and I run Lotus Writing Therapy and The Lotus Readers blog. I am a counsellor, workshop facilitator and avid reader.

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