Where Monsters Dwell

Jørgen Brekke's Where Monsters Dwell blends medieval legends, forensic science and old-fashioned intuition to create an engrossing mystery. It begins when homicide detective Felicia Stone is shocked by a violent murder at the Edgar Allan Poe museum in Richmond, Va. Not only was the museum's curator beheaded, his body was flayed so severely that large portions of his skin are missing. A few weeks later, in Norway, police inspector Odd Singsaker, coming back to work after surgery to remove a brain tumor, winds up with a flayed body of his own--the corpse of a university librarian discovered inside the rare book vault.

Singsaker learns that one of the rare books stored there is the so-called Johannes Book, written by a murderous 16th-century priest and bound in human skin. Meanwhile, Stone, discovering her chief suspect has ties to the Johannes Book, sets off for Norway. Together, the two must figure out exactly why the killer is taking the victims' skin, and stop him or her before more vicious crimes can take place.

Told in alternating chapters, Where Monsters Dwell moves from modern Virginia and Norway back to medieval Europe, as Johannes the priest learns about anatomy and surgery, while Singsaker and Stone try to decipher the connection between his legacy and their unsolved murders. The changing viewpoints keep the story moving briskly, as do the likable main detectives. Stone's complicated past and Singsaker's tumor-caused forgetfulness add interesting layers to the narrative; the stories of several of the academics suspected of murder are equally fascinating. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

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