Another good review of The Arc of the Swallow
22 April 2015
Ton Nolan acclaims "The Arc of the Swallow" by Sissel-Jo Gazan in Wall Street Journal
Danish author Sissel-Jo Gazan has demonstrated that her acclaimed mystery, “The Dinosaur Feather,” (2013) was no fluke. “The Arc of the Swallow,” (Quercus, 570 pages, $26.99) is a second science-pegged fiction involving some of the characters introduced in her first work. Chief among these is Soren Marhauge, a former police superintendent who finds solutions to mysteries by “knitting backwards”—unraveling the strands of a crime until he reaches its starting-point. Soren dotes on his work-obsessed girlfriend, a divorced biologist named Anna, yet “the biomechanics of vertebrates reached parts of Anna that Soren couldn’t.”
One of Anna’s colleagues, Marie Skov, is a devoted protégé of a controversial researcher intent on exposing a fatal flaw in the World Health Organization’s African vaccine program. Marie’s mentor is found hanged in his office, an apparent suicide. But why would he kill himself when he was on the brink of proving his claim? This is the sort of puzzle Soren revels in, and he conducts his own covert inquiry into the professor’s death. Yet he can’t give full attention to his usual backwards-knitting, distracted as he is by his personal insecurities and jealous fantasies.
The author has an uncanny knack for quickly drawing a reader into the minds of her characters: suffering their frustrations, laughing at their jokes, worrying during their crises. The domestic intrigues of Marie and her relatives, and of Soren and Anna, prove as engrossing as the criminal conspiracies at hand. Gradually, this excellent book’s separate story-lines draw tight, and Soren’s knitting-backwards proves not so different after all from the scientific method. As another researcher tells Marie: “My experience is that the missing pieces turn up when you work on the empty spaces.”