Title: Marked for Life by Emelie Schepp
Jana Berzelius Trilogy Book One
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: C+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
When a high-ranking head of the migration board is found shot to death in his living room, there is no shortage of suspects, including his wife. But no one expects to find mysterious, child-size fingerprints in this childless home.
Public prosecutor Jana Berzelius steps in to lead the investigation. Young and brilliant but emotionally cold, Berzelius, like her famous prosecutor father, won’t be swayed by the hysterical widow or intimidated by the threatening letters the victim had tried to hide. She is steely, aloof, impenetrable. That is, until the boy…
A few days later on a nearby deserted shoreline, the body of a derelict preteen is discovered, and with him, the murder weapon that killed the official. Berzelius finds herself drawn more deeply into the case when, as she attends the boy’s autopsy, she recognizes something familiar on his small, scarred, drug-riddled body. Cut deep into his flesh are initials that scream child trafficking and trigger in her a flash of memory from her own dark childhood. Her connection to this boy has been carved with deliberation and malice that penetrate to her very core.
Now, to protect her own horrific but hidden past, she must find the real suspect behind these murders before the police do.
International bestselling author Emelie Schepp introduces us to the enigmatic, unforgettable Jana Berzelius in this first novel of a suspenseful, chilling trilogy.
Marked for Life by Emelie Schepp is the first installment in the Jana Berzelius trilogy. Set in Sweden, this intriguing mystery is rather dark with a chilling storyline.
Following the puzzling murder of the head of the asylum board Hans Juhlén, Public Prosecutor Jana Berzelius is assigned to the case. With little evidence at the scene of the crime, the investigation is not making much progress until security footage yields the first tangible clue. A series of threatening letters found in the victim’s home and unexplained cash withdrawals are also of interest to the investigators and this discovery is the first hint that Hans might have been involved in some unsavory activities. However, the first real breakthrough in the case occurs when the remains of a young boy are discovered on the beach along with a gun that matches the weapon used in Juhlén’s murder. During the autopsy, a strange mark on the boy’s neck that is eerily similar to one on Jana’s neck leads the prosecutor to begin a covert investigation of her own.
Jana is a hardworking, highly successful prosecutor who is quite dedicated to her job. She is a little cold and distant with no close personal friends. Her relationship with her parents is somewhat strained but she dutifully joins them for social engagements. Jana’s father is a highly respected prosecutor who is now retired and although they do not discuss her cases, he is interested in their final outcome. She has been plagued with a series of nightmares that date back to her childhood and in an effort to try to understand their meaning, Jana keeps extensive notes about her dreams. After seeing the mark on the deceased boy’s neck, she is determined to uncover the truth about her past.
Since Jana is not overly concerned about legalities, her investigation moves a little faster than the official one. She is one step ahead of the police for much of novel but they are, of course, uncovering the same evidence she is. Trying to maintain her composure is sometimes rather tricky, but she manages to keep her emotions and expressions under control at their progress meetings. Jana is slowly but surely putting the pieces of the puzzle together and she turns to someone from her past to aid her during the investigation. Although they have not been in contact since childhood, Jana trusts him implicitly and he provides her with information that could crack the case and give her the answers she needs to understand what happened to her when she was a child.
An overall solid debut by Emelie Schepp, Marked for Life is an engrossing mystery that delves into some very difficult subject matter such as human trafficking, the drug trade and the exploitation of children. The official investigation is initially a bit of a slow burner but once it gains momentum, a very disturbing picture begins to emerge. While the characters are fairly well developed and likable, they are the stereotypical cops found in police procedurals. Jana is a unique, multi-layered protagonist with a fascinating back story and it will be interesting to see the evolution of her character in the next books in the trilogy. While the novel does not conclude on a cliffhanger, not all of the storylines are wrapped up so readers will be impatiently awaiting the next installment in the Jana Berzelius trilogy.