Saturday, April 16, 2022

Review - Pesticide

Title:   Pesticide
Author:  Kim Hays
Series:  Linder and Donatelli #1
Publisher:  Seventh Street Books
Genre:   Mystery & Thrillers
Format:  Print ARC
No. of Pages:   358
Date of Publication:   April 19, 2022
My Rating:   4 Stars


Giuliana Linder and Renzo Donatelli make for one of the sharpest, most compelling police duos you’ll ever read. Their conflicted attraction bristles with true emotional depth and poignancy as they lead a rich ensemble cast through the surprisingly nefarious world of organic politics. A remarkable procedural set in Bern, Kim Hays’s Pesticide is Switzerland’s answer to Scandinavian noir. Fresh and oh so readable, you won’t want to put it down.
--James W. Ziskin, author of the award-winning Ellie Stone mysteries

Bern, Switzerland—known for its narrow cobblestone streets, decorative fountains, and  striking towers. Yet dark currents run through this charming medieval city and beyond, to the idyllic farmlands that surround it.

When a rave on a hot summer night erupts into violent riots, a young man is found the next morning bludgeoned to death with a policeman’s club. Seasoned detective Giuliana Linder is assigned to the case. That same day, an elderly organic farmer turns up dead and drenched with pesticide. Enter Giuliana’s younger—and distractingly attractive—colleague Renzo Donatelli to investigate the second murder. Giuliana’s disappointment that they’re on two different cases is tinged with relief—her home life is complicated enough without the risk of a fling.

But when an unexpected discovery ties the two victims into a single case, Giuliana and Renzo are thrown closer together than ever before. Dangerously close. Will Giuliana be able to handle the threats to her marriage and to her assumptions about the police? If she wants to prevent another murder, she’ll have to put her life on the line—and her principles.

Combining suspense and romance, this debut mystery in the Polizei Bern series offers a distinctive picture of the Swiss. An inventive tale, packed with surprises, it will keep readers guessing until the end. 


Scandinavian Noir is new to me, but I do hope that Pesticide is the first of many. In this cold and dark story, readers are introduced to Giuliana Linder and Renzo Donatelli. She is more experienced, and the pair like working together on cases. However, their reasons go beyond professional, as they share a mutual attraction, something that could derail their families.

Giuliana has been assigned a case of the death of a young man. The facts lead to a young police officer. It is Giuliana's job to discover whether or not the young officer indeed killed the man, or if something else could have occurred. When Renzo learns of the new case, he is determined to also be assigned so that he can be close to Giuliana. Before Renzo gets that opportunity, the body of a farmer in his seventies is discovered, and that is the case that Renzo will be working on.

It doesn't take very long for facts to prove that both cases are connected. This gives Giuliana and Renzo the opportunity that both of them want to work closely together, fighting temptation every step of the way.

Somethime deep is going on, and part of it is the conflict between organic and conventional farming. Drugs might also be involved. The manner of death of the old man involved pesticides and that just might be the framework of everything going on. It is up to Giuliana and Renzo to sort everything out, and this includes locating, eliminating and eventually discovering the right suspects.

While they are working on their cases, there is a strong element of drama in this captivating read. Giuliana's marriage is on tenterhooks and insight is given to her relationship with her husband and children. Then there is the intensity of the Bern police. Are they professional? Impulsive? Dangerous? If danger is part of what is going on behind the scenes, will Giuliana and Renzo also face danger as they seek to find answers?

This Switzerland police crime thriller was an excellent read from beginning to end. I liked getting to know Giuliana and Renzo and am looking forward to reading more books in what promises to be a successful series.

Many thanks to Kim Hays for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

Please also enjoy my YouTube video review -

Also, I would like to include an interview with Kim Hays:

An Interview with

Kim Hays

1. What do you think sets your detectives, Giuliana and Renzo, apart from other detectives?

One way they’re set apart is by having spouses and young children, like most people their age. After all, who can imagine Reacher, Spenser, Kinsey Milhone, or Mary Russell with a conventional family life? I think that, for readers, watching Giuliana and Renzo interact with their kids gives the characters depth, and it also gives me a chance to show the book’s concerns infiltrating the detectives’ homes. A problem like bullying, for example, can cause a child to cry—or it can cause a murder.


I’m certainly not the only writer to give cops families. Deborah Crombie’s police detectives, for example, are married to each other and have a patchwork family; their children are part of every book she writes.

2. How have real world Swiss political issues shaped Pesticide

For a start, the rave-turned-riot that begins the book is based on something that really happened in Bern in 2013. Afterward, Swiss journalists argued in the press about whether or not the police had overreacted. 

Two other topics that shaped Pesticide’s plot are drug-dealing and organic farming. While Switzerland may have a reputation for being clean and orderly, that doesn’t keep it from having the same problems with illegal narcotics that most wealthy countries do. It was fascinating to talk to two of Bern’s public prosecutors about which drugs in the city give them the most headaches. As for organic farmers, they’re a politically active part of both Bern’s and Switzerland’s agricultural scenes.

3. What do you think makes a “good person” in crime fiction?

I’ve thought quite a lot about this, because I wanted my two detectives to be unmistakably ‘good guys’, but without getting on my readers’ nerves. I also didn’t want most of my criminals to be complete ‘bad guys’, because, well, most people aren’t that simple. I believe some people are truly evil, though, and I’ve got some of them in my books, as well. I’m very interested in what makes someone consider themselves a good person, because it clearly depends on all kinds of factors, like nationality, gender, profession, religion, and much more. I wrote my doctoral dissertation about adolescents trying to figure out how to be ‘good’, and that was long before I started to write murder mysteries, so you can see this is a long-term interest of mine.

4. How have the places you’ve lived affected your writing? 

I wouldn’t have felt comfortable setting a novel in Bern and making all the characters Swiss if I hadn’t lived in the city for thirty-three years. I lived in San Juan, Vancouver, Stockholm (and six US states) before I moved to Bern, but I don’t think that has influenced Pesticide in a direct way. I do think growing up in different cultures has made me aware of how differently we react to everything from babies to alcohol, from a kiss on the cheek to a death in the family. That’s one of the reasons I gave Renzo Donatelli, one of my two detectives, Italian parents, so that he could roll his eyes every now and then at Swiss behavior.

5. What advice or resources helped you when you were working towards becoming a full-time author?

Few people can afford to write full time.  There’s the huge problem of money, since writing doesn’t pay well, and also the distraction of all the other responsibilities most adults deal with every day. I didn’t switch to full time writing until my son left for college, and even then I eased out of my job, cutting down on my hours bit by bit. I was extremely fortunate that my husband could earn enough alone to support us. Another, completely different kind of resource I was lucky to have was a group of friends and family members who were willing to read what I wrote and give me useful feedback. Believe me, a writer can’t take that for granted—it’s a huge help. 

6. What kind of research went into Pesticide

Pesticide is the first novel in the Polizei Bern series, so the most important research I’ve done is on how Bern’s police force works. Luckily, I have a wonderful neighbor who’s a high-ranking police officer. I’ve also walked organic farms with their farmers and interviewed farm inspectors. I’ve learned how illegal (non-medicinal) marijuana is grown and sold in Bern, and I’ve spent time in the city’s alternative culture center, the Riding School, which plays an interesting role in the book. It’s always important to remember, though, that mysteries are fiction, which means the people who write them don’t have to be accurate all the time.  Sometimes, for example, buildings appear where they never stood, and jobs get created that don’t exist–all in service to the plot! 

7. How did you approach blending romantic elements into a mystery?

That’s a good question, because I was surprised by how hard I found it to write realistically about two adults—not crazy-in-love teenagers—trying to manage their romantic feelings for each other while working together. And, on top of that, they’re two married adults with kids. Romance is particularly difficult when you’re writing a series since you know that anything that happens between your characters in Book One will have repercussions in Book Two. So how did I approach romance? With extreme caution. I guess it’ll be up to my readers to decide if what I wrote worked.


Kim Hays is a dual citizen (Swiss/American) who has made her home in Bern since she married a Swiss. Before that she lived in San Juan, Vancouver, and Stockholm, as well as the US, her birthplace. Since the age of seventeen she has worked at a wide variety of jobs, from factory forewoman to director of a small nonprofit and, in Switzerland, from sociology lecturer to cross-cultural trainer. She began writing mysteries when her son left for college. Pesticide, the first book in the Polizei Bern series, featuring detectives Giuliana Linder and Renzo Donatelli, will be published by Seventh Street Books on April 19, 2022. It was shortlisted for the 2020 Debut Dagger award by the Crime Writers’ Association.

Hays has a BA in English history and literature from Harvard and a PhD in cultural sociology from UC-Berkeley.

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