The Coal Man

Published: 2007 - Publisher: Politikens Forlag - Pages: 533

Not published in English

Detective inspector Nina Portland’s new case begins when a dead body turns up in a mountain of coal in the harbour of Esbjerg. Soon another body is found in a summer cottage along the coast. Both men have been tortured and murdered. 

Nina Portland discovers that the murdered men have been in touch with a young man from Esbjerg, Ib Munk, who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. Ib has been working for a Danish photographer who has recently died in a traffic accident in Turkey, and it seems that Ib has something that is worth killing for. Now, he is on the run.

While trying to find and protect Ib Munk, Nina Portland soon finds herself a hunted prey. The trail of the killers lead her to a deserted wildlife reserve off the coast of Jutland, and from there to Berlin and to the teeming city of Istanbul where the trail seems to end. But when the final showdown comes, it finds Nina at home, and by then, not only her own life is at stake …

Detective inspector Nina Portland of the Esbjerg police first appeared in The Axe Ship (Økseskibet) in 2004.


Jensen in a league of his own

Jens Henrik Jensen has for a long time been in a league of his own in Denmark, when it comes to putting a crimestory into a geopolitical context.
He did it with The Kazanski Trilogy with the CIA-agent Jan Jordi Kazanski as the main character, and he did it again with The Axe Ship and detective inspector Nina Portland as the main character.
As usual Jensen writes very well and skillfully builds up the thrill. And yet again he has put things together and formed an international plot - even a realistic one.

A highly explosive cocktail

It is thick as a German picturebible, way over 500 pages, but the amazing thing is, that this brick of a novel feels like a piece of cake. It is read as a pocketbook. Jensen is unlikely to be paid a greater compliment.
Jens Henrik Jensens novel is not condemnatory. It is entertaining. There is a bit of Sjöwal og Wahlö, and a shred of Frederic Forsyth and a whit of Mankell, when it comes to the narration. But it is maybe this highly explosive cocktail, that defines Jensen, as the novel is glowing in its originality.

The Coal Man is full of energy

Jens Henrik Jensen elegantly blends the local interest of the police procedural with the international angle of the thriller, and demonstrates that men are perfectly capable of writing femi-thrillers. In keeping with the times, Nina Portland is not just an ambitious copper, she is also a single mother with all that that entails, and a frequent visitor to the local pizzeria. And while the pizza boxes may end up empty, the plot certainly holds up - Nina Portland isn’t the type to sit around moping, she’s a woman of action.

The Coal Man is full of energy, and Jens Henrik Jensen shows yet again that crime novels set in the Danish provinces don’t have to be provincial. Esbjerg may have lost its status as a major fishing port, but when Jensen casts his criminal net the catch is always interesting.

What do the readers say?

Yet another smashing novel with Nina Portland as the main character. Looking forward to the next one.
♦ Miss Amager,

The novel is written in an easily understood language, but in such a thrilling way, that it is very hard to put aside.
My best recommendations!
♦ Helle,

What do you think?