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Pesticide
Kim Hays, author
Bern, Switzerland—known for its narrow cobblestone streets, decorative fountains, and striking towers. Yet dark currents run through this charming medieval city and beyond, to the idyllic farmlands that surround it. When a rave on a hot summer night erupts into violent riots, a young man is found the next morning bludgeoned to death with a policeman’s club. Seasoned detective Giuliana Linder is assigned to the case. That same day, an elderly organic farmer turns up dead and drenched with pesticide. Enter Giuliana’s younger—and distractingly attractive—colleague Renzo Donatelli to investigate the second murder. Giuliana’s disappointment that they’re on two different cases is tinged with relief—her home life is complicated enough without the risk of a fling. But when an unexpected discovery ties the two victims into a single case, Giuliana and Renzo are thrown closer together than ever before. Dangerously close. Will Giuliana be able to handle the threats to her marriage and to her assumptions about the police? If she wants to prevent another murder, she’ll have to put her life on the line—and her principles. Combining suspense and romance, this debut mystery in the Polizei Bern series offers a distinctive picture of the Swiss. An inventive tale, packed with surprises, it will keep readers guessing until the end.
Reviews
Set against the backdrop of Bern, Switzerland, this gritty, humane detective thriller brims with an intriguing whodunit mystery, a touch of romance, and a host of vibrant, well-developed characters. After a rowdy summer event turns into a riot, a young man is found bludgeoned in an alley with a policeman's billy club implicated as the murder weapon. Enter seasoned detective Giuliana Linder, who gets assigned to the case, which soon crosses paths with another crime, the murder of an organic farmer. That case is being investigated by Linder’s handsome colleague Renzo Donatelli, who stirs something in her–and not just because he “looked like he should be on a billboard, advertising aftershave or underpants.” Linder's life is on shaky ground with her rocky marriage and her rebellious teenaged daughter without the added temptation kindled by proximity to Donatelli.

The suspense, both procedural and romantic, as well as shrewd surprise twists and turns will keep readers guessing until the satisfying conclusion. Building tension throughout with apparent ease, Hays has penned an at times dark and often relatable debut novel featuring a strong-willed and strong-minded woman detective who is all business when it comes to her professional life and home life. Or she seems to be–the banter and flirtation between Linder and Donatelli lightens the mood even as readers wonder just how far Linder will let her attraction to another man go, while the intriguing connections between the two detectives' cases offer a tantalizing puzzle.

Character-driven yet fast-paced, Hays’s story is heavily immersed into the inner workings of the police force, seeming to lift the veil and expose hard truths about just how far some members of law enforcement are willing to go to cover for each other, even in their wrongdoing. Linder is a wonderfully developed and complex protagonist that readers will relate to and root for. Readers of thoughtful crime fiction will hope this debut is the start of more novels to come featuring this Bern cast.

Takeaway: A tense, character-driven crime debut perfect for fans of thoughtful police procedurals.

Great for fans of: Gwen Banta’s With Wanton Disregard, John Barlow’s Right to Kill.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

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