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by Christian Jungersen
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, August 2006
512 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 0297852353

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Iben, a woman working in the Danish Centre for Genocide Information, is taken hostage while in Kenya. Her extraordinary bravery in the face of danger sees the death toll being less than it might have been.

Back in Denmark, Iben and best friend Malene, who also works in the DCGI, have a relationship that tends to exclude others: their secretarial colleague Camilla and, even more so, librarian Anne-Lise. The duo's venom and bullying, directed against Anne-Lise, is seen and deplored by Camilla, a victim of bullying in her childhood, yet she dares say nothing against it.

Threatening e-mails are received by Iben and Malene and are ascribed to a terrorist, Mirko Zigic, about whom both women have written. Then Camilla, too, is threatened and suspicion turns to Anne-Lise.

Anne-Lise has never before worked in an unfriendly environment and feels herself being pushed into playing a role which is not natural to her. Her home life is disrupted as a result, to the extent that there is a mysterious break-in at her house.

Iben writes scholarly articles detailing The Psychology Of Evil, providing reasons for people to behave as they do when they become mass murderers. She is unable to draw a parallel between her own behaviour, together with Malene's, until she reads a diary written by Anne-Lise.

The author cleverly establishes just how normal and likeable are Anne-Lise's persecutors before he goes on to narrate the horrors they visit on their victim. He carefully contrasts the microcosm of evil against the macrocosm of genocide and makes a convincing case of it. His characterisations are impeccable with the shifting alliances seeming inevitable. The peripheral characters, too (Malene's boyfriend Rasmus and the women's boss, the conniving Paul) are as carefully constructed as the women.

This is a chilling tale, both in the wider aspect and, more especially, the more intimate. Anyone who has ever worked with a small group of people and observed the dynamics when someone does not get on with the majority cannot help but find the narrative resonate. As to the genocide, both historical and current, it can really jolt the reader out of any complacency he or she may feel and make them wonder of what, too, they may be capable.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, December 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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