Heidi Amsinck’s novel My Name is Jensen is the first in a new series featuring investigative journalist Jensen, only ever known by that one name and recently returned from assignment as London correspondent for the Danish national newspaper Dagbladet to its Copenhagen HQ.
Guilty. One word on a beggar’s cardboard sign. And now he is dead, stabbed in a wintry Copenhagen street, the second homeless victim in as many weeks.
Dagbladet reporter Jensen, stumbling across the body on her way to work, calls her ex lover DI Henrik Jungersen. As, inevitably, old passions are rekindled, so are old regrets, and that is just the start of Jensen’s troubles.
When a third body turns up, it seems certain that a serial killer is on the loose. But why pick on the homeless? And is the link to an old murder case just a coincidence?
After the initial shock of discovering a dead body on her way to work one morning, you’d think that a journalist who needed to prove her writing credentials would jump at the chance to write it up for the front page of the national newspaper she works for. All the more so when this latest death might well prove to be the second victim of a serial killer targeting the homeless. But Jensen finds that she can’t (or won’t) and it’s handed off to a colleague on the crime desk instead.
I admired Jensen for being unable/unwilling to write a potentially career-saving front page story in the immediate aftermath of her grim discovery and for concealing the fact that she’d taken any photographs from her boss, Margrethe, the paper’s Editor-in-Chief. (The same boss implementing staff cuts at the paper and increasingly under pressure for Jensen to justify why she was worth saving from the latest round.) That Jensen needs to know more of the story before attempting to tell it made me warm to her, as did the fact that she continued to work on it so doggedly, even after it’s been assigned to another colleague. I could have done without her anti-fat character descriptions, though, especially when one of those same characters goes on to help Jensen at great personal risk, and I really hope she drops these in any future outings.
Jensen’s an interesting character: newly returned home but yet to make her mark there; reliant on friends for accommodation while she investigates the death of a homeless person; and a strong and independent woman, who needs the help of others, including her former lover who’s working the same case, in so many ways, not least to help her solve the mystery she stumbled upon in a quiet Copenhagen street.
All these others form a strong supporting cast of characters from the intuitive coffee street vendor to the ingenious young man she mentors, from the friend whose apartment she sublets to the politician offering her more than his summer house, from her colleagues at the paper right up to her ballsy boss, Margrethe, and former lover, DI Henrik Jungersen, and his colleagues. They all serve to make main protagonist Jensen much less of a solo act than she would like to be but they also create a community around her, a makeshift family of sorts, if you will, some of which will hopefully carry forward into future books in the series. Jensen is undoubtedly the force which propels the story forward but My Name is Jensen is all the stronger a book for having this ensemble cast support her.
The short chapters kept me wanting to read one more and then another and another after that one… and so on to get closer to unlocking the central mystery of what lay behind a young man’s death on one of the oldest streets in Copenhagen. I thoroughly enjoyed following Jensen and Gustav, as well as Jungersen and his team, as they tracked across the city and its environs and even further afield to Jutland. At times it felt like a bizarre cat and mouse game was being played between the journalists and the police, with the roles continually switching as they chased down each and every lead, and I wondered who would be first to solve the mystery and if I could beat them to it. (So close but no cigar this time. Damn you, Amsinck.)
My Name is Jensen is an invigorating rush of Scandi noir and I’m as willing as Jungersen to trail Jensen if and when she returns for another case. I have no idea how she rides a bicycle through snow and doubt I’ll master that before her return but, since this first outing of hers was such an exhilarating ride, I’ll willingly scramble along in her snowy tracks.
My Name is Jensen by Heidi Amsinck is published by independent publisher, Muswell Press, and is available as an audiobook, ebook and in hardback. You can find it at Amazon UK (affiliate link), Bookshop.org, Hive and Waterstones. You can follow the author on Twitter.
My thanks to the publisher for sending me a review copy.