One, Two … He is Coming for You by Willow Rose is the first in a five-volume boxed set of Rose’s Rebekka Franck mystery series. Book One is what I call a comfort read and I expect others in the series to be as comfortable as this one. It is in a bank of books that I can fall back on with the assurance that the stories may not be great literature, but they are good storytelling. Each one has a little bit of a twist on some proven formula that makes the writer’s work interesting. In this writer’s case, the twist was in the setting. This first novel is set in a small town/village of Denmark. I get the impression the town name is bigger or larger than the town.
The formulaic stuff first. There was a boarding school for rich kids. Parents used it as a storage locker to minimize parent/child time. Kids might not see their parents for months at a time, the length of a school year. It was high school, with all the cruelty and bullying implied. Inevitably, there would be a premier group that would distinguish itself and rule the social scene. Didrick Rosenfeld was a member of such a gang. A favorite activity of the six-person group was to play a game where each person would come up with the grossest and most injurious to others game to play. The rest of the group, including the planner, would carry it out. Failure to participate would result in the gang member’s expulsion and the assurance that the expelled member would be the object of the next activity. There were many activities centered on the torture and maiming of others. Of course, there was the old standby, gang rape. And so, the gang survived high school. Rich parents made sure the boys could do no wrong.
After graduation, the men could do no wrong. They entered family businesses where the occupied sinecures. If they did no harm, CEO(s) would leave them alone. Their only responsibility was to spend excess profits in a hedonistic lifestyle of their choosing. Sounds good, except for the evidence of one of their last “gross” activity. There had been a gang rape, there was a picture of the girl and the guys on a boat, the girl had survived but spent months in a hospital. She was now in seclusion living almost as a hermit and looking through hollow eyes described as “the thousand-yard stare.” Someone, presumably from the past, had surfaced and was killing the guys in the picture one-by-one. And the killings were messy.
Enter Rebekka Franck, a recent returnee to the village where she lived with her father and daughter Julie after running away from an abusive husband. Rebekka had worked for a big newspaper as a star reporter. She accepted a small-town stringer job for a tabloid newspaper as the price to be paid for the safety of a home away from husband Peter. Rebekka’s previous assignments had been exciting including one in Iraq where she was briefly held captive by insurgents. She had been rescued by the guy she would marry, Julie’s father. Rebekka survived Iraq mentally, Peter didn’t and in extreme cases locked Rebekka and Julie in a basement. Rebekka had had enough. She abandoned hubby and career for the sake of Julie and went home to daddy, just in time to be present at the first killing of Denmark’s first serial killer.
This now becomes an amateur-sleuth-does-good story. Fans of police procedurals will poke holes all over the story, but it remains good because of the Denmark setting. I felt the characters had a different lifestyle, one that is more socialist or even humanitarian in dealing with everyday events. This comes through as Rose explores ways Rebekka deals with conflicts in her own life: a mal-adjusted husband, Peter, who will reappear; a wannabe artist, Giovanni Marco, an artist on the run who wants to be Rebekka’s boyfriend; a ten-year-younger photographer who wants to be Rebekka’s boyfriend; a concerned widowed father; and Julie, the daughter who wants Dad to come back.
And then there are the murders which eventually happen at a rate sufficient to earn the title “serial murders.” Rose did a good job of distraction in arriving at the final surprise ending. I thought the killer was obvious throughout and Rebekka was remaining amazingly obtuse. But I was wrong as I am sure many, but not all, readers will be. This is a good story which I thought deserved four Amazon stars.
I purchased this box set and three other five-volume sets by different authors, same genre, for USD 0.99 each through Amazon. The offer of such a reasonable price is part of a six-day campaign. A promotion from J. A. Konrath’s website led me to the promotion.