Medieval Swiss city sets the stage for murder

How organic farming, local politics, and romantic entanglement crop up in compelling dual detective mystery

Bern, Switzerland – Lose yourself in the haunting Swiss city of Bern in this engaging police procedural by debut author, Kim Hays. Pesticide (Apr 19, 2022, Seventh Street Books) follows detectives Guiliana Linder and Renzo Donatelli as they work together to solve two mysterious deaths in the first Linder and Donatelli book.

Bern is 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 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 having to deal with the distractingly attractive Renzo.

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.

Shortlisted for a 2020 Debut Dagger Award by the Crime Writers’ Association, “Kim Hays brings a sparkling new voice to police procedurals, giving us engaging and realistically drawn detectives who struggle to balance their personal lives with the demands of a gripping investigation.” – Deborah Crombie, New York Times-bestselling author of the award-winning Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novels

Kim Hays | April 19, 2022 | Seventh Street Books | Crime fiction
Paperback | 9781645060468 | $17.95
Ebook | $9.99

More about Kim Hays: Kim Hays lives in Bern with her Swiss husband and is a dual citizen of Switzerland and the US. She grew up in San Juan, Vancouver, and Stockholm, and has lived all over the States. Since her teens, Hays has worked in a variety of jobs, from forewoman in a truck-engine factory to lecturer in sociology to cross-cultural coach for multinational firms. Writing remained in the background until her son left for college, when she decided to try to write a novel. Pesticide, the first mystery in her Polizei Bern series, is the result. It was shortlisted for the 2020 Debut Dagger award by the Crime Writers’ Association. Hays has a BA from Harvard and a PhD from the University of California-Berkeley. Find out more about her at

In an interview, Kim Hays can discuss:

  • Starting a new career at sixty
  • Writing a love letter to her adopted city
  • How the book breaks stereotypes about Swiss people and culture
  • Recent Swiss votes in favor of continuing the use of dangerous pesticides
  • What it means to be a “good person” in crime fiction
  • Her long relationship with crime fiction, especially police procedurals

Praise for Pesticide

“Kim Hays brings a sparkling new voice to police procedurals, giving us engaging and realistically drawn detectives who struggle to balance their personal lives with the demands of a gripping investigation. Set against the fascinating backdrop of modern Switzerland, Pesticide will delight crime fiction fans–a standout debut for 2022!” —Deborah Crombie, New York Times-bestselling author of the award-winning Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novels

“Kim Hays hits it out of the park with her debut novel, Pesticide, giving this twisty police procedural lots of heart by creating characters that the reader truly cares about. It is a must read for mystery lovers, especially those who prefer their intrigue with an international edge.” —Allen Eskens, bestselling and award-winning author of The Stolen Hours and six Max Rupert and Joe Talbot mysteries

“A highly original police procedural, set in Switzerland, with a charming cop heroine who is also a mum, and blending drug deals and organic farming to produce a first-rate yarn.” – Martin Walker, editor-in-chief emeritus of United Press International and author of the Bruno, Chief of Police series

“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

“Kim Hays delivers a superbly written mystery set in Switzerland. Two murders, one in the old town of Bern, the other on a nearby organic farm, test the wits of veteran police detective Giuliana Linder and her handsome junior colleague, Renzo Donatelli. The setting is fresh, the characters richly developed, and the plot as intricate as the inside of a Swiss watch. Enjoy!” – Betsy Draine and Michael Hinden, co-authors of the Nora Barnes and Toby Sandler mysteries

“A convincing and compelling page-turner in a unique and authentic setting, Pesticide is a cleverly-plotted mystery that manages to be well-researched, intriguing, and entertaining. Kim Hays writes complex characters and suspense equally well, and her investigating duo, Giuliana and Renzo, are sure to win the hearts of readers everywhere.” – Clare O’Dea, author of Voting Day

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.

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