I tried the first Greenland Missing Persons novella, ‘The Boy With The Narwhal Tooth’ after seeing that one of the readers that I follow had gleefully consumed a dozen of these stories about Constable Petra Jensen. Of course, the striking covers and intriguing titles also tempted me.
As soon as I read it, which didn’t take long as it’s only eighty-one pages long, I knew I’d be back for more, so I bought the next two books. Having read them, I know I’ll keep coming back until there aren’t any more left to read. There are thirteen novellas in the series at the moment but I’m hoping that there’ll be more before I get to the end.
So what’s the appeal?
I find something comforting about these books. They’re not ‘cozy’ stories in the American sense. They don’t sugar-coat Greenland or the lives of the people there and they don’t shy away from grief and distress. What makes them comforting is that they’re full of empathy for people coping with tragedy and they’re hopeful and forgiving.
Some of this is down to the character of newly qualified Constable Petra Jensen. I like how she sees the world. She’s curious and empathic and has a strong instinctive need to help others. She’s slow to judge and hard to deter. As her job takes her into small, remote communities in Greenland, we see her trying to connect with a heritage that her genetics declare should be hers but which her upbringing in the capital city, Nuuk, in an orphanage where she learned Danish and English but not Greenlandic, has distanced her from.
Some of it is down to the approach to policing that is taken in the books. Petra and her colleagues seem more concerned with preventing harm by stopping violence from escalating or by helping people at risk to cope with their challenges than they are with meting out punishment. I don’t know if that’s how policing really works in Greenland but it seems like a good orientation for a police force serving small, isolated communities where everyone knows everyone else and a big city which attracts the displaced and disaffected.
To my surprise, I’ve found that I like that I’m learning about Petra and about Greenland through a series of novellas rather than longer books. I enjoy being able to read a complete story in an afternoon, It’s like popping in for a visit to a familiar place where unexpected things are likely to happen. I like that each story builds on the last while still working as a freestanding tale. The stories allow me to visit different places in Greenland and see Petra Jensen in new surroundings. And, of course, I have the satisfaction of having a mystery solved every hundred pages or so.
When a young Greenlandic boy is reported missing almost 12 months to the day he disappeared, newly trained Police Constable Petra Jensen travels to the far north of Greenland to find him.
I loved that the newly qualified Police Constable Petra Jensen becomes responsible for missing persons by accident, displeasing her Sargeant but pleasing his boss. Petra finds herself stranded for days lining very simply in a remote village as she searches for a boy who has been missing for a year.
I’d have expected a city girl like Petra to be appalled at the living conditions in the village but she relaxes into it as if it was home and teams up with Tuukula, a seventy-oneyear-old Shaman and Luui his five-year-old daughter.
What I liked most about the book was the easy relationship between the Shaman and his daughter and the way in which Petra folds into it. It reminded me of sharing a house with my cousins when there were children everywhere and the little ones expected to be able to climb into the lap of anyone bigger than them and be welcomed.
I also liked that the resolution of the story was as much about healing as it was about finding, turning the book from a mystery into something more human.
When a girl’s shoes are found beside a dead raven, and the search for her body is called off, it is left to Police Constable Petra Jensen to close the case and allow the parents to grieve.
This starts with Petra doing normal police work in Nuuk, dealing with violent drunks on a Saturday night, but soon has her sent north as a political gesture of support to a mother whose missing daughter has not been found, despite an extensive search.
This was a story that could easily have been about blame and anger and grief but instead became a story about understanding things that are too difficult to say and forgiving things that can’t be changed.
I liked that Petra got Tuukula and Luui involved again and that their unique way of looking at people and situations meant that they and Petra saw things that others had missed.
It’s clear that Christoffer Petersen is more than a little in love with Luui and it’s a feeling that’s contagious. She is the embodiment of a magic that is made of boundless energy and optimism combined with a way of seeing the world with different expectations. I hope we see more of Luui as the series goes on.
As the temperature plummets and the residents of a remote village shelter during a particularly vicious winter storm, Constable Petra Jensen picks up the pieces of an old case to pass the time until the temperature rises.
This is a little bit different from the first two books. At 137 pages the story has more space to breathe. Petra is on her own, this time and she’s set up for a perfect Whodunnit – trapped on an island by a winter storm in a hotel where the only guests are her and six Americans who were all present two yours earlier when the seventh member of their group went missing.
Petra, whose on the island to transport a prisoner to the mainland, finds herself interviewing each of the Americans in turn to find out what happened to their companion and quickly suspects that she may be looking not for a missing person but for his murderer.
I loved that Petra wasn’t suddenly transformed into a super-sleuth but instead struggled to know what to ask and what to make of the answers.
The mystery was a clever one and its resolution involved some intense action as well as clever investigation.
I liked that it was Petra’s empathy, her ability to suspend judgement and her knack for building trust that led to discovering what had really happened.
Christoffer Petersen lives in a small forest in Jutland, in southern Denmark. He hasn’t always been Danish; in fact, he borrowed his pseudonym surname from his Danish wife, Jane. Chris writes all kinds of stories under different pen names, but is best known for his crime books and thrillers set in Greenland. (You can find Chris’ other pen names here.)
Chris (and Jane*) spent seven years in Greenland living and working as a teacher in remote communities far above the Arctic Circle. He spent four years on the island of Uummannaq, named after the heart-shaped mountain that dominates the island. Moving north, Chris lived in Qaanaaq – not so very far from the North Pole – for two years before moving to Greenland’s capital: Nuuk, where he taught at the higher education college and the Police Academy. (*Jane worked as an enrolled nurse in the hospitals in Uummannaq and Nuuk.)
Chris has a BA in Outdoor Education from the University of Strathclyde, a Danish teaching qualification, and an MA in ICT and Learning from Aalborg University. While living in Greenland, Chris studied for a Master of Arts in Professional Writing from Falmouth University. Chris graduated with a distinction in 2015. He has been writing full-time since January 2018.