This novel chronicles the changing allegiances among the four staff women of the Danish Center for Information on Genocide. At the beginning, Malene and Iben are best of friends; Malene recommended Iben for the job, though they kept their prior friendship secret at the time. Camilla, the director's secretary, feels on the periphery of the office talk that's usually dominated by Iben or Malene.
Anne-Lise, the librarian, is the newest member of the staff and feels intentionally excluded from office camaraderie. This feeling intensifies after Iben and Malene receive email death threats. It appears, at first, that the threats have come from one of the war criminals profiled in the Center's journal, Genocide News, but as incidents occur, it seems more likely the threats were internally generated. Iben and Malene target Anne-Lise with their suspicions, actively shunning and harassing her.
As information unfolds about their personal histories and NGO politics, suspicions shift from one woman to another. Alliances change, and so do our sympathies.
Jurgensen imparts information about genocide through the journal articles written by the character of Iben. She explores the psychology of genocide perpetrators through a series of articles, “The Psychology of Evil.” How can ordinary people commit atrocities by day and return home to a normal family life at night? There is documentation of individuals who commit war crimes under certain circumstances and revert to being average citizens when those circumstances change. These are examples of anger overtaking common sense.
We see this disintegration of self-control mirrored in the actions of this small group of women who are exceptionally knowledgeable on the subject. How easy it becomes to degenerate to base levels of thought and action.
This is the best work of fiction I have read this year; it was difficult to put down, and I would rate it off the chart if I could.