Sarah Surgey & Emma Vestrheim: A Presence of Absence


I received a free digital copy of this book from the authors in exchange for an honest review.

British detective Simon Weller escapes the fallout from the recent suicide of his Danish wife, Vibeke and heads out to her home city of Odense. But once there he is paired up with a local detective, Jonas, who is also about to hit rock bottom in his home life, and they must overcome their differences and personal problems to try and catch one of the worst serial killers Odense has ever seen. The case takes them back into past decades as history starts catching up with some of the local inhabitants. When Simon realises that his wife’s suicide may not be all it seems and her name appears in the case, his integrity within the case is compromised, how far will he go to find out the truth of Vibeke’s past and hide it from his already troubled police partner?

Back home in London Simon’s family are struggling with their own web of lies and deceit and the family is falling apart.

With one family hiding a dark secret, the whole case is just about to reach breaking point.

A Presence of Absence is the first book in a new series by self-published authors Sarah Surgey and Emma Vestrheim. The Odense Series follows British Detective Simon Weller; starting with A Presence of Absence where Weller must tackle the grief of his newly deceased wife as he attempts to run away from his demons in Odense, Denmark. However, he cannot get away from her, her face keeps cropping up everywhere he goes resulting in Weller drinking himself to sleep each night. But, when his wife crops up in a case, he cannot help but follow the clues to understand how she was involved. A Presence of Absence is a novel about grief and facing your demons.

A Presence of Absence is a fast-paced, dark, gritty, and mysterious novel that has you on your toes throughout. Sarah and Emma really know how to string a mystery, crime novel together. I went through the majority of the novel wondering who was committing the crime and why and how Simon Weller’s own family were implicated. Not a lot of information is forthcoming throughout the novel, you gain information as Simon Weller does giving the feel of a proper case. It is not until the last 1000 or so pages that the case truly starts to wrap up and it becomes a lot clearer who is committing the crime, and why. It was because of this that I was gripped throughout, and read this book in the majority of my spare time so that I could try and crack the case before the book had finished.

Simon Weller falls into the category of a detective that doesn’t let his emotions cloud his judgement. Before the death of his wife, and his involvement in this case, his work and his family life were two completely separate entities. But, with the death of Vibeke, he can no longer focus on what is going on around him, falling for the bottles of beer and wine as an escape from his grief leading to his resignation from the London Police Force and moving to Denmark to gain clarity, and escape the demons that haunt him day and night. He definitely has an element of the dark and brooding (without the romance element) as he fights against letting the memories of Vibeke in and pushing his family aside who are only trying to help. However, it is clear that he is an intelligent man and one that stands up for himself, not telling those who think they are better than him take control. You can see this through his initial relationship with Jonas who, disgraced in the Odense Police Force, tries to lord it over Simon and pretend to be far superior than he really is.

Jonas is a born and bred Denmark man. Growing up on a farm, he believed he would grow to take over from his parents someday. But, after doing a good deed, all he wanted to do was be the hero, and so he joined the police force – to his parents dismay. Jonas had high hopes to progress throughout the police force, but was later disgraced and left in the position of lowly traffic cop, handing out tickets and chasing down drunk drivers. His wife, Birgitte, was looking for more, marrying Jonas when he was at the peak of his career. Jonas is definitely a character who is down on his luck; pulled into work along Simon Weller on his first major case, the power goes to his head as he tries to put Simon in his place. However, it is clear that Jonas is lacking in self-esteem, secretly eating large quantities of food and understanding the position he stands in with his wife is not one of love and affection, but convenience. Jonas’ progression alongside Simon was definitely something that made me happy, as he began to take into account everything that Simon was telling him instead of jumping to the more obvious conclusions. I am looking forward to, and hoping, that they two characters stick together through the rest of the series and seeing how they rub off against each other.

This novel was definitely interesting with the two elements of British and Danish cultures. There is a lot of mention surrounding Hans Christian Andersen and the way in which he has changed the culture of Denmark and the tourism industry. The novel was fun to read and definitely dark with all the various elements surrounding Vibeke’s death and the deaths of those in Denmark. I’d like to thank Sarah and Emma for reaching out to me to review this book, and I am looking forward to the next in the series.

Goodreads: A Presence of Absence
Amazon: A Presence of Absence

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The second novel in the Odense Series is currently in the process of being written, with an expected release date of December 2017. Below is a synopsis for the second book, The Enlightened:

When a young girls body is discovered in a burnt-out church, the Odense police initially conclude that it’s nothing more than a tragic accident involving a runaway. However, when British detective Simon Weller digs deeper, he finds a link between the girl and a cult up in the most northerly parts of Norway.

As more evidence arises, the arson attack on the church quickly becomes a murder investigation, and sees the detective travelling to Norway to work on the case alongside a young and eager Norwegian counterpart. Everything is not what it seems and they find themselves looking back over the history of Norse Mythology and how the past occult is once again fighting its way into modern day society. Meanwhile, in Odense Simon’s colleague Jonas Norgaard discovers an element to the case that puts Simon’s life in danger.

As the case unfolds across the corners of Scandinavia, in London Simon’s family is falling apart. With her husband, Michael, missing, Simon’s daughter Sanne spirals into depression and self-loathing, while her brother Thomas takes care of her children. Frustrated, Thomas starts investigating Michaels disappearance and comes across information that may answer why his mother committed suicide two years ago.



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