Book Review: A Death in Denmark by Amulya Malladi

In Amulya Malladi's A Death in Denmark, an ex-Copenhagen cop, jazz aficionado, and relentless pursuer of truth explores Denmark’s Nazi-collaborator past and anti-Muslim present. Read on for Michelle Carpenter's review!

A politician is killed, and a man is convicted, and then years later someone begins to upend the entire case. That someone is a private investigator dripping in sarcasm and Christian Dior who sets the stage for A Death in Denmark by Amulya Malladi.

Gabriel Præst is a former Danish policeman, current PI, musician and father who finds himself in the constant line of fire after agreeing to help his ex-girlfriend in her mission for justice. Leila approaches Præst with a proposition to help her uncover the truth of a murder that took place over five years ago. The crime was a seemingly cut-and-dry case when a politician, Sanne Melgaard, was murdered in her home. A Muslim refugee was found to have both motive and evidence working against him and was convicted shortly thereafter. Approached by his family, Leila believes that she can overturn the conviction with Præst’s help:

“I was in London when the trial took place and I couldn’t help him then.” Her voice was a hoarse whisper. She was affected. “But I intend to help him now.” 


“How?” I was baffled. 


Leila took a deep breath. “I need you to investigate this.”


“This? As in the murder of Sanne Melgaard?”



After accepting the case, Præst begins to understand there is more at play here. He believes Yousef Ahmed did not commit the crime, however it appears the death may be woven into the world of Danish politics—extending as far back as World War II. The investigation into Melgaard’s death takes Præst from Copenhagen to Berlin and deep into the Nazi archives:

“She came here several times. She wanted some records that were restricted. I couldn’t help her.”


“Do you know what she was looking for?” Leila asked. 


Herr Schmidt nodded. “She was interested in records of Danes who were Nazi collaborators.”

As Præst and Leila begin to uncover what may have triggered Malgaard’s murder, they put themselves at risk. Whoever killed Malgaard knows they are investigating and will stop at nothing to ensure the truth remains hidden. Præst continues to come face to face—or face to fist—with those hired to stop him, all the while sarcastically instigating everyone who warns him to drop this case:

Bør nodded gravely. “Look, Præst, if you get killed, your daughter will hate me for the rest of my life.”


“Not my problem. I’ll be dead.”

A Death in Denmark is filled with twists and turns while taking the reader on a journey through Danish history. However, one of the facets of this novel that really stood out was the protagonist, Gabriel Præst. Throughout the novel, Malladi does an excellent job of bringing Præst to life and making him someone the reader cheers on. Whether he’s describing the beverage he’s drinking, the outfit he’s wearing or the woman he’s seeing, Præst does so in intricate detail, with a humorous edge:

Since it was yet another good day in May, I had chosen to wear an off-white Tom Ford linen suit with a pale blue Eton dress shirt. You never wore a suit jacket with a fucking T-shirt. I completed my uniform for the day with a pair of blue suede derby shoes with socks.

Præst’s humor is artfully paired with the peril of the investigation, ensuring both edge-of-your-seat action and a few laughs until the very end. Overall, this book brings the reader on a gripping ride, where there is danger, great wine, and luxury fashion at every turn. A Death in Denmark marks the first in what I hope will be many Gabriel Præst Scandinavian crime thrillers. 

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