Kim Hays holds U.S. and Swiss dual citizenship and lives in Bern, Switzerland. After a wildly diverse career she turned to writing crime fiction. Pesticide (Seventh Street Books, 2022) is her first book about Inspector Giuliana Linder and her younger colleague Investigator Renzo Donatelli of the Bern police. It was shortlisted for the 2020 Debut Dagger award by the Crime Writers' Association. The second book in the series is scheduled for release in April 2023.
Linder is assigned the difficult task of looking into the death of a member of the public, possibly at the hands of a police officer during a street celebration that turned into a riot. The officer in question reported hitting the young man but not hard enough to cause fatal damage. Her first job is to identify the victim. While he was carrying cash, his identity papers are missing. In the meantime Donatelli is pulled into investigating the clear murder of François Schwab, an elderly organic farmer outside Bern who was found in his barn drenched in the pesticide that he loathed. When their separate investigations reveal the two knew each other and that they had business dealings, Linder and her associates begin to believe the deaths are connected.
Linder’s husband Ueli is a journalist who keeps their home going in the face of her grueling work schedule and cares for their two children while fitting in his writing and research as he can. The understandable tensions this arrangement generates are clearly portrayed. Ueli has a dual role in the book, demonstrating the strain a police officer’s work exerts on home and family and carrying the secondary theme of the book, the issue of police brutality, which is examined from both sides. It is an ongoing source of concern within the Linder marriage.
Donatelli is unhappily married but adores his children. He makes no secret of his interest in the older Linder, who is committed to her marriage while finding Donatelli attractive. I am not a fan of crime fiction that is more romance than mystery but this push/pull is realistic and takes a back seat to the criminal search. Anyone who works with other people will recognize the potential for the situation.
This book is a very good procedural; I don’t understand why it has not received more attention, although Kirkus did give it a starred review. The plot is original, the setting is intriguing, and the characters are wonderful. Even the secondary characters are lifelike. The issue of police brutality is shown from both sides in a balanced and compassionate picture. The insight into the Swiss law enforcement system is fascinating. Highly recommended.
· Publisher: Seventh Street Books (April 19, 2022)
· Language: English
· Paperback: 358 pages
· ISBN-10: 1645060462
Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2023
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.