Print Friendly, PDF & Email


A surgeon in his seventies doesn’t come home from walking his dog along Bern’s river and is found drowned; it’s clear his death was no accident. As Swiss police detective Giuliana Linder and her assistant Renzo Donatelli investigate the dead man’s background and family, suspicion falls on his middle son, Markus. A photographer with a history of violence and substance abuse, Markus was always a disappointment to his father. During the year before his father’s death, Markus gets to know Jakob Amsler, a long-ago schoolmate of the surgeon’s in the village where they both lived as boys. From Jacob, Markus learns that his father’s life contained some ugly secrets. Now Giuliana and Renzo are circling in on those secrets, all the while dealing with their attraction to each other and their ambivalence about having an affair.

“Hays makes sure that the historical aspects of the story are as compelling as the murder mystery at its heart. . . .A smart Swiss procedural that keeps its mystery ticking.” — Kirkus Reviews

“The second outing of Linder and Donatelli is as crisp and skilled as the first, with our police duo digging beneath the beauty of Bern to the shadows beneath . . . .Brisk plot, depth of character, great setting—what’s not to love?” — Laurie R. King, Edgar Award-winning author of thirty novels, including the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series

“Kim Hays balances winter-keen psychological insight with . . . the beauty of the most charming canton of Switzerland . . . .Giuliana Linder and Renzo Donatelli are compassionate, conflicted, and utterly compelling. SONS AND BROTHERS is a must-read.” — Julia Spencer-Fleming, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

Kim Hays recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, SONS AND BROTHERS.

Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
In 2009, I saw an exhibit that described the lives of Swiss children who’d been taken away from their parents and contracted by the authorities to work for farmers far from their homes. I listened to excerpts from taped interviews with “contract children” placed out between 1920 and 1960s in which they described the neglect and mistreatment they’d experienced. I found the exhibit so moving and disturbing that I resolved to write something about it, and three years later I began writing SONS AND BROTHERS.

Kim Hays

A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?
Whenever I lost myself in the world of my novel, I felt like that was the place I wanted to be, exploring the lives and feelings of my characters. There were days when writing each word felt like a slog, but the majority of the time I was very happy in the SONS AND BROTHERS world.

When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?
The protagonists of SONS AND BROTHERS, and of the other books in the Polizei Bern series, are a Swiss homicide detective in her late forties and her assistant, an Italian Swiss in his mid-thirties. Many crime novels feature police pairs who solve murders, including ones who start to fall in love with each other, as mine do, although they don’t often work in the capital of Switzerland! What I most wanted to portray with this pair was the way they combine their jobs with their home lives, and how hard they try to make time for their kids. I wanted my detectives to be not only cops but “normal” people with families as well.

In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
Entertainment is always my most important goal. Still, I hope this book will persuade at least some readers to think about how many different kinds of bullies there are in our lives and in the lives of people we know and how important it is to confront bullies and try to stop them from tormenting their victims.

What can you share about what you’re working on next?
The third book in the Polizei Bern series is on its way to being finished. In it, the hit-and-run death of a young lesbian is revealed to be a murder. Giuliana Linder turns to the victim’s Sri Lankan Tamil partner and her family for answers, while Renzo Donatelli buries himself in the victim’s work files, which are surprisingly hard to decipher. Both detectives discover that while the dead woman’s passion for truth-telling impressed many of those who knew her, it obviously threatened others.


Kim Hays is a dual Swiss/US citizen who lives in Bern with her Swiss husband. Before that, she lived in San Juan, Vancouver, and Stockholm, as well as the States. Hays has a BA in English history and literature from Harvard and a PhD in cultural sociology from UC-Berkeley. Since the age of seventeen she has worked at a wide variety of jobs, including factory forewoman and director of a small nonprofit, plus, in Switzerland, sociology lecturer and cross-cultural trainer. She began writing mysteries when her son left for college. PESTICIDE, featuring Swiss police detectives Giuliana Linder and Renzo Donatelli, is the first book in the Polizei Bern series. It was shortlisted for the 2020 Debut Dagger award by the Crime Writers’ Association and published by Seventh Street Books in April 2022. The second book in the series is SONS AND BROTHERS (April 2023).

To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.