The Chestnut Man
By Søren Sveistrup
Harper; hardcover, 528 pages; $28.99; available today, September 3
Søren Sveistrup is an internationally acclaimed script writer, creator and film producer of several TV series. From 2007 to 2012 he was the creator and writer of “The Killing,” which has won several international awards, has been sold to more than a hundred countries all over the world, and was remade for AMC by Fox Television Studios in the US. He lives in Copenhagen.
The Chestnut Man is Sveistrup’s debut novel, and it is rich with the fascinating characterization and unpredictable plotting that has endeared Sviestrup’s work to viewers worldwide, and it is unlike any debut you will read this year. HarperCollins won the American rights to the book, which has already sold in 25 territories across the globe.
This is the story of two embattled Copenhagen detectives spurred on by an eerie calling card to bring a brutal, cunning psychopath to justice.
It is without closure that Rosa Hartung, Copenhagen’s Minister for Social Affairs, comes back to work one year after the murder of her twelve-year-old daughter. A mentally ill young man has confessed to the killing but is unable to remember key details of the crime and can offer no insight on the whereabouts of the dismembered body. On the day of Hartung’s return to parliament, a single mother is found murdered in Copenhagen’s suburbs.
The novel introduces young Copenhagen detectives Naia Thulin, a workaholic, single-mother living with her young sun, and Mark Hess, a burned-out investigator just kicked out of Europol’s headquarters in the Hague.
“Thulin and Hess are two sides of me,” says Sveistrup. “Hess is the guy being burned out. I felt burned out at the time and I gave something of that to Hess. Thulin is another side of me – the one who is fed up with feeling burned out and thinks he’s lazy and egotistic.”
These reluctant partners are on the case, and they find a small human figurine made of chestnuts near the victim. Analysis reveals that one of the chestnuts bears the fingerprint of Minister Hartung’s daughter—who has been presumed dead for nearly a year. It is not the last figurine they will come across.
Battling the tumult of their personal lives, institutional roadblocks, and– perhaps most dauntingly—each other, Thulin and Hess’s investigation quickly becomes a breakneck race to prevent this sadistic killer from striking again.
Many of the plot points and emotional scenes in both The Killing and The Chestnut Man are inspired by the personal family upheaval that Søren experienced as a young man. When he was thirteen, he learned that he and his siblings were adopted, and that his biological mother, who became pregnant at a very young age, had given him up at birth so that he would have opportunities she couldn’t provide. And then at the age of 21, his adoptive mother went missing one morning. his parents had just gotten divorced – his father was an alcoholic – and his mother, who had been diagnosed as manic-depressive, was struggling. The police found the body of a woman by the coast; Søren who was living at home at the time, had to identify her body. He was the one who had to tell his younger siblings about her suicide.
Netflix announced recently at the Copenhagen TV Festival that its second Danish original series will be “The Chestnut Man,” based on this novel. It will debut exclusively on Netflix worldwide. Production is slated to begin in Denmark in 2020 with the executive production team SAM Productions, who is also behind the coming Norwegian Netflix original series Ragnarok.