What Never Happens, by Anne Holt
Anne Holt (born 1958 in Larvik, Norway) is a lawyer and writer: She has sold over 4 million books worldwide, and is a former Minister of Justice, TV news editor and anchor, and journalist. She has written 13 books. She is one of the most successful crime authors in Norway.
What Never Happens is a chilling, densely written book. It's a police procedural about a copy cat killer committing a series of gruesome murders in Oslo, Norway.
The main characters in What Never Happens (as well as her earlier What is Mine), are former FBI profiler Johanne Vik and he husband, police inspector Adam Stubo. Even though Johanne is home with their newborn child and cares for a young daughter with autistic-like behaviors as well, she is reluctantly pulled into the investigation as a result of discussions about the terrible and shocking cases at home with her husband.
The victims are all celebrities and theatrically posed. A talk show hostess is found with her tongue cut out, mutilated and lovingly arranged. The leader of a political party is crucified, with a copy of the Koran inserted in her vagina. And grumpy, aspiring literary and political critic is bludgeoned and stabbed in the eye.
There are absolutely no clues, and any connections that Stubo can make among the slain only confuses matters. Gradually Johanne Vik realizes that the murders are familiar to her. This forces her to confront an incident in her past that is her greatest secret, one she keeps even from Stubo.
The mystery is fascinating. Holt tells a story with several fabulous twists. For instance, once Stubo gets a solid suspect, he finds that he has inadvertently established the suspect's innocence - even as he becomes certain that this individual is the murderer.
Holt’s talent is partly developing an telling a great tale in a quiet, somewhat remote fashion. Partly it is her ability to let us see the story from both side, yet to understand very little until it is gradually revealed. Also, she develops her characters very well. It is interesting to follow Johanne, Adam, and their children. The interaction between Kristine and Adam is heartwarming.
What Never Happens is a innovative, well crafted crime masterpiece.
Norwegian Crime Writers
Like Sweden, Norway has a large number of authors writing crime books and thrillers, even though the number is smaller than that of Sweden (Norway has approximately half the population of Sweden). Approximately 50 Norwegian crime writers are listed in Wikipedia.
However, very few Norwegian crime book authors have had their books published in English, even though several more are good enough for it. To the best of our knowledge, these are the only 12 (please correct us if we are wrong):
- Kjell Ola (K O) Dahl
- Tom Egeland
- Thomas Enger
- Karin Fossum
- Ella Griffiths
- Frode Grytten
- Anne Holt
- Jorn Lier Horst
- Jon Michelet (Orion's Belt only - 1986)
- Jo Nesbo
- Pernille Rygg
- Kjersti Scheen
- Gunnar Staalesen
Among these, the most well-known internationally are Jo Nesbo and Karin Fossum.
Several more have been published in other languages, like Spanish and German. Among those not translated to English (yet), the best writers are probably Thomas Enger, Tom Kristensen, Unni Lindell, Vidar Sundstol, Arild Rypdal, Fredrik Skagen, and Øystein Wiik.
See also: A Golden Age for Norwegian Crime Fiction
Dregs, Jorn Lier Horst
In the idyllic, quiet and mellow small town of Stavern, close to Larvik, on the South-Eastern coast of Norway, a cut-off left foot in a training shoe is found on a beach. This macabre finding turns out to be the first in a series. Soon, another left foot is found. And then some more. In one week, four left feet have floated onto different parts of the shoreline. What on earth is happening? Are the owners of the feet dead? Is there a mass murderer on the loose in Stavern?
Inspector William Wisting is an experienced police officer, who has investigated many murder cases. But he has never ever seen the likes of the case he encounters in Dregs. Four feet – left feet – and therefore obviously from four different people.
Soon he and his excellent team of investigators are able to link the feet to people that have been missing. It’s a heterogeneous group – three elderly, retired men and a woman with a mental illness. Wisting goes back to the investigations of the missing person cases, and finds that the cases have been very poorly investigated. The three men, it turns out, knew one another. Their ties go back a long time, to the Second World War. But why would somebody hunt them down now – more than half a century later? And what about the murdered woman – how does she fit in?
The pace in Dregs accelerates as the plot develops and climaxes in a wonderfully realistic and violent denouement.
Jorn Lier Horst is an interesting and very good Norwegian crime fiction writer. Dregs is the sixth book in Jorn Lier Horst’s series about Inspector William Wisting, and the eight novel published by the author. Lier Horst is actually a police officer, working in the city of Larvik, not far from where the action in Dregs takes place, so he knows police work as well as the area he writes about, and it shows. His books, including this one, feel very authentic and have excellent descriptions of police work.
I have read several of Jorn Lier Horst’s books, and I am delighted that he has finally been translated into English. I would have liked it better, of course, if the publishing had started with the first book in the series. That said, Dregs is a well written crime fiction novel, with a very interesting mystery and an excellent and twisting plot. It’s a very good police procedural, and William Wisting is an interesting character that I look very much forward to meeting again.
Praise for Jorn Lier Horst:
'At his best, the author is both a sociologist and a philosopher.' --Terje Stemland, Aftenposten
The Man in the Window, by K O Dahl
The Man in The Window is the third book (in the original Norwegian sequence) in KO Dahl's series about Frolich and Gunnarstranda.
Seventy-nine-year-old Reidar Folke Jespersen, who sells antiques in Oslo, is one day sitting in a restaurant, looking at his wife entering an apartment on the other side of the street, where her lover lives. He leaves the restaurant to meet his brothers. Next morning he is found murdered, sitting naked in a chair in the window of his antique shop.
The case is assigned to detective Gunnarstranda and his assistant, Frank Frolich. The clues are few and difficult to interpret. A red string is tied around his neck, and three crosses and a number - 195 - has been written across his chest. Some items from WWII are missing. Also, clearly, several people are quite pleased that Jespersen is dead.
The Man In The Window is an intricate and thrilling detective story about love, loyalty, guilt, desire for revenge and shadows from the past. These questions consume the investigation, just as they fill the private lives of the investigators. What they uncover is a country where victims, perpetrators and even police officers are haunted by the past, and are still trying to cope with the dark memories of the Nazi occupation of the country.
K O Dahl has a sharp eye for dialogues, he elaborates detailed portraits, he creates surprising relationships and he is excellent at creating tension and atmosphere. The Man in the Window is one of his best, and highly recommended.
Praise for The Man in the Window:
“I have read many clever and thrilling crime novels through my life, but often they have nothing to do with real life. If I don’t believe in them, they don’t impress me. But when K.O. Dahl tells his stories, I believe every single word.”
-- Karin Fossum, author of The Indian Bride
”A psychologically truthful detective story from the Scandinavian school, with interesting characters and a large portion of laconism.
-- Welt am Sonntag (Germany)
”With The Man In The Window, Kjell Ola Dahl proves that not only Swedes master the genre with bravur but also Norwegians.”
-- Frankfurter Rundshau (Germany)