“Berlin detective Jan Tommen expected to wake up with a hangover—not a murder charge. But a well-known judge has been brutally killed and hard evidence places Jan at the crime scene. When disturbing gaps in Jan’s memory make finding an alibi impossible, the case against him looks open and shut.
Faced with life on the inside, Jan flees police custody to take refuge with an old friend deeply enmeshed in the capital’s seedy underworld. Hampered by a citywide manhunt, Jan soon finds that investigating leads while eluding capture isn’t easy. Before long, he’s relying on a team of misfits for help, including an icy blonde medical examiner and a brilliant but reclusive computer whiz.
When a lucky break leads Jan to connect the murders to a heinous trafficking ring, the team risks it all to find answers. Meanwhile, the body count continues to rise and the police department starts to close in. Desperate to prove his innocence, Jan must identify the true killer—before his time finally runs out.”
Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to share my review of Until the Debt Is Paid by Alexander Hartung (translated by Steve Anderson). Until the Debt Is Paid was published on 4th November 2014 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats. I’m a fan of translated crime fiction and I particularly enjoy German crime fiction (along with Japanese novels) which is how a copy of Until the Debt Is Paid found its way to damppebbles HQ. It’s been sat on my shelf for a wee while now so I decided to include it in my 20 books of summer list. And yes, I should have reviewed this book before the challenge ended on 1st September but there was no way that was going to happen 😂
After a boozy night out, Detective Jan Tommen wakes to find he’s the prime suspect in a grisly murder investigation. The evidence that puts the detective in the frame for the Judge’s murder is pretty conclusive. The only problem is Jan has no memory of what happened the previous night. Sure, he knew the victim, and yes, perhaps he did despise the Judge, but would he commit murder? Realising that he’s about to be arrested for a crime he’s not sure he committed Jan decides to go into hiding, calling on the help of a friend with less than salubrious contacts. Together Jan, Chandu and the small, quirky team at their disposal must discover the killer’s real identity before Jan is imprisoned for life, or the killer strikes again…
Until the Debt Is Paid is a well-written police procedural with a slightly different edge to it in that Detective Jan Tommen is the both the hunter and the hunted. He’s fairly sure he didn’t kill the Judge but due to his loss of memory, he can’t be 100% sure. So whilst he chases down any lead he can find to find what he believes to be the truth, the entire Berlin Criminal Investigations Division are frantically trying to locate him, lead by Jan’s least favourite colleague, Patrick Stein. I like a detective with something to prove and that’s definitely what Tommen is in this book. His colleagues have made their minds up, there’s no other option and Jan is their man. But with the help of a group of acquaintances – a member of the Berlin underworld, the medical examiner and a teenager with all the computer skills they could ever need – they follow the leads ruling out most options until they get lucky. I was a little disappointed with the stereotypes used by the author to create Tommen’s team. They felt a little tired, a little too easy perhaps, but they all played their part and helped move the story along. It was just a little predictable.
Would I recommend this book? I would, yes. I found Until the Debt Is Paid to be an interesting, entertaining crime novel which held my attention from start to finish. I liked Jan Tommen, and despite the use of clichés throughout, thought the other characters contributed well to the story. I wasn’t able to predict in what direction the author was going to take the story and was very surprised when the denouement was made. Until the Debt Is Paid is a gritty, compelling story which I enjoyed. I would be keen to read the second book in this series but was disappointed to see that’s where the Jan Tommen Investigates series ends for now. Fingers crossed for more in the future. Recommended.
Until the Debt Is Paid by Alexander Hartung (translated by Steve Anderson) was published in the UK by Amazon Crossing on 4th November 2014 and is available in paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |
Alexander Hartung lives in his hometown of Mannheim, Germany, with his wife and young son. He discovered his love of thrillers and historical fiction while studying economics. Until the Debt is Paid and Grave Intent follows hard-partying detective Jan Tommen through Berlin, a city the author previously called home.
His second series follows Nik Pohl through the city of Munich. Until today the first two books – Broken glass and Blood ties – are translated into English.