Walking his dog along Bern’s icy Aare river, a surgeon in his seventies drowns. When his bruised corpse is found, his watch is missing. A mugging gone wrong? The more Swiss police detective Giuliana Linder and her assistant Renzo Donatelli learn about Johann Karl Gurtner, the more convinced they are that he was no random victim.
Talking to Gurtner’s family raises as many questions as it answers, but one thing becomes clear: the surgeon’s middle son, Markus, a photographer with a history of violence and substance abuse, has been a disappointment to his father all his life, and he is an increasingly plausible suspect for Gurtner’s murder. Other information leads Giuliana and Renzo back to the village where Gurtner was born, and, spending so much time together, they again have to deal with their attraction to one another and their ambivalence toward having an affair.
Alongside their investigation another story unfolds. During the year leading up to Gurtner’s death, his son Markus becomes friends with Jakob Amsler, a long-ago classmate of the surgeon’s. In contrast to the privileged young Gurtner, Jakob was a foster child, removed from his family by the authorities at nine and placed on a farm to work in terrible conditions. From Jakob, Markus learns that his father’s life contains some ugly secrets.
As Giuliana and Renzo discover more about Gurtner’s past, these secrets threaten to surface. Did Gurtner’s killer want to keep them hidden—or to force them out into the open at any cost?
Kim Hays is an American who moved to Bern thirty-five years ago when she married a Swiss; by then, she’d already lived in the US, San Juan, Vancouver, and Stockholm. She studied at Harvard and Berkeley, and before beginning the Polizei Bern series, she worked in a number of jobs, including executive director of a small nonprofit and lecturer in sociology. A Fondness for Truth is her third police procedural featuring Swiss detectives Linder and Donatelli. The first, Pesticide (2022), was shortlisted for a CWA Debut Dagger Award and a 2023 Silver Falchion Award for Best Mystery. Kirkus called the second mystery, Sons and Brothers (2023), “a smart Swiss procedural that keeps its mystery ticking.”
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