Jacob Nielson, an embittered, alcohol-fueled architect is struggling to come to terms with his divorce, when he receives a call from his great-uncle Anton. Anton wants help finding a missing girl called Ellen, with whom Jacob was in love, many years ago. In order to solve the mystery, Jacob must journey through his past and confront the truth.
The Summer of Ellen is definitely 'a novel of suspense!' Calling it a thriller would invoke stakes that are too high, and noir doesn't seem to quite belong with the sunny, rural atmosphere. Novel of suspense, then, fits perfectly. Lyrical would also work quite well ... This is a beautifully written book, descriptive, atmospheric and carefully woven. The conclusion seems a tad rushed, but it's hard to find any fault with it otherwise. Despite the wide vistas of fields and countryside, Friis manages to create a feeling of claustrophobia and an impending sense of doom. Two striking scenes, one during the culling of chickens, are especially vivid and worth the cover price alone. Alfred Hitchcock once said that a thriller is a whodunit, an intellectual process, but suspense is an emotional one. Friis knows this — and slowly, slowly takes us by the hand and draws us into a seductive, and dangerous, summer.
Nordic noir gets another complicated, flawed hero who is compelled to explore inner as well as outer mysteries in this second stand-alone...this branch of Nordic noir could be called Danish desolate; the settings, in contemporary Copenhagen and on a Jutland farm in 1978, mirror the psychological landscape by focusing on the bleak and challenging ... The hero, Jacob, is indeed a melancholy Dane, an alcoholic and failing architect (the metaphor extends subtly and thrillingly to his own life)...
Agnette Friis knows atmosphere ... a novel first and an erstwhile mystery second ... The problem is focus. The back-and-forth switching around diffuses what little propulsion there might be to finding Ellen, and it’s hard to get in Jacob’s corner because he broods and muses about that lost summer way back when ... Architects may not own a private eye streak, but between the heavy memories and all that atmosphere, Jacob’s sense of drive to answer questions about the fate of Ellen never shift out of low gear.