Beyond the Truth by Anne Holt

beyond-the-truthI like to read series I’ve invested in from the start, and thankfully, this entry in the Hanne Willhelmsen series lives up to the ones I really liked in the series. It’s a story revolving around the murder of 3 members of a wealthy shipping family and a seemingly unconnected freelance writer, all around Christmas time.  I prefer the smaller plots in this book and Death of the Demon than the big political plot in The Lion’s Mouth. I also like Hanne in crisis, and the metaphor about the ragged dog at the beginning of the end being Hanne, on the brink of burnout and worse, is not heavy handed.

What else? Annemari Skar finally gets something juicy to do as the police prosecutor. The characters are actually fleshed out, something I find missing in some other books I’m reading lately. And, I almost forgot, we find out about Hanne’s family– the one she grew up in as well as her new family with her new partner Nefis. The plot isn’t as thriller-y as some of the other installments in this series and the Vik and Stubo series, but it’s a solid procedural with an interesting cast of characters. I think this book works best for readers who’ve read other books in the series, not because of plot reasons but because I’m not sure how compelling the characters are without knowing their paths over the last several books.

Beyond the Truth by Anne Holt, translated by Anne Bruce

Scribner, December 2016

Originally published as Sannheten bortenfor, 2003

Hanne Wilhelmsen book 7

Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher

No Echo by Anne Holt

No echoI was disappointed with this entry in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series. The investigation was too bogged down, and the police procedural elements were so thorough or in such long chapters as compared to the brisk short chapters in the rest of the book that the book didn’t flow for me.

No Echo deals with the murder of a celebrity chef, Brede Ziegler. He remains a cipher through much of the book (he’s the man with “no echo”), and I never felt really intrigued by him, which I was the main reason I was lukewarm about the book. This book also featured Billy T. taking the lead for Hanne Wilhelmsen, who was on leave of absence for several months as the book begins, and while I appreciate the plot point of Billy T floundering without his mentor and best friend Wilhelmsen, Holt laid it on pretty thick in this story. I don’t like being overwhelmed with the details of a police investigation when the investigation flounders for such a long time.

What else? A couple characters felt like caricatures to me, and the plot seemed to depend on clues dropped in mysteriously from above instead of being uncovered organically.  The last book was so good that any follow up would pale in comparison, but this one just didn’t do it for me.

No Echo by Anne Holt and Berit Reiss-Andersen, translated by Anne Bruce

Originally published as Uten ekko (2000)

Hanne Wilhelmsen book 6

Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.


Dead Joker by Anne Holt

dead joker

Anne Holt’s characters and plots make her one of my favorites: fast-paced stories with a social conscience and a memorable lesbian detective.

Dead Joker is a downer. Hanne Wilhelmsen is going through personal and professional burnout, and it’s rough going. The book starts with a decapitation (most Holt books aren’t so gruesome at the beginning) and turns from murder to other disturbing crimes that could feel overwhelming, but Holt is so good at pacing and fleshing out her characters that I didn’t feel overburdened by everything in the story that could be too much. I know it’s hard to write something that proceeds at such a clip when it could have felt even heavier given the subject matter. Short chapters help, and spending time with all of her main characters over the length of a substantial book helps too.

Dead Joker is a police and legal procedural with a cast of characters who’ve developed over the series: Hakon and Karen the lawyers and Billy T. and Hanne the detectives. If you haven’t read earlier books in the series, you may not feel as invested in the characters, but on the other hand, this book summarizes lots of the earlier books as well so a new reader doesn’t miss out on crucial plot developments. Holt spends plenty of time with other characters too, and the decline of the prosecutor accused of murderer was very vivid. Other characters are a bit more of a mystery (Billy T.), but I assume he’ll take the lead in another book instead.

My review is a little vague to counterbalance the copy on the back of the book that gives away practically everything. This book is for fans of the series, most of all, and it feels like a sort of summing up of Hanne’s career in the police. It looks like there are just a three more books to be published in English: No Echo, Beyond the Truth, and Offline. I will track them down.

Dead Joker by Anne Holt, translated by Anne Bruce

Originally published as Død joker, 1999

This edition: Corvus, 2015

I bought my copy of the book

He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum

he who fears the wolfEveryone just read Karin Fossum already.

It took me until book 3 in the Inspector Sejer series by Karin Fossum to be a convert, but now I am. As the book started in the head of a schizophrenic young man having horrifying visions, I wasn’t sure what I was in for. Thankfully it’s not gruesome book, but it is one that hit me.

The story is dominated by Errki, the schizophrenic young man from the first chapter and Morgan, the bank robber who takes him hostage. Sejer is tied to the bank robbery investigation because he was in the bank right before it happened, but his work is dominated by the murder investigation into an older woman living in a remote mountain hut who is found murdered by a young juvenile delinquent named Kannick who found her while escaping to practice archery, his obsession.

He Who Fears the Wolf is kind of an atypical crime novel in that the police procedural is not so dominant. In fact, I may know more about how tracking dogs work than how the police work after reading this book. The story takes place over a day, and most of the time is spent with the bank robber, his hostage, and the young man who discovered the murder victim. It reminds me a bit of a Laura Lippman books that way, but in Fossum’s case, there’s even less a police presence.

This book sticks with me. Fossum humanizes everyone in this story, which is remarkable, especially given the relatively short length of the book. Fossum is also interested in bigger issues, like mental illness and crime, and while she addresses them in speeches by Errki’s psychiatrist Dr. Struel, it felt just a bit on the nose.  How the crimes and their aftermaths unfolded felt overwhelmingly sad to me. And Sejer’s grief about his wife hit me as well.

He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum, translated by Felicity David

Originally published as Den som Frykter ulven

Harvest/Harcourt, 2006

I bought my copy of the book.

The Lion’s Mouth by Anne Holt and Berit Reiss-Andersen

lionsmouthI’ve read a lot of Anne Holt, in part because her approach on writing a series is to have a few recurring characters whose place in the story varies. Some of the early books in the series feel like thrillers or police procedurals while 1222 is a locked-room sort of mystery, and Death of the Demon felt almost like a novella with a very obvious social conscience. It’s great to read different kinds of stories with different characters taking prominence, but, unfortunately, this politics-heavy installment in the Hanne Willhelmsen series didn’t quite grab me.

This is a political story: prime minister Birgitte Volter is found shot dead in her office, and the Norwegian government is in crisis. There are a lot of characters to introduce both in the investigatory teams and the political teams.  Hanne Willhelmsen appears as an afterthought: she is living in California and on leave from the police but consults with her good friend, Billy T, another unorthodox detective.

Because of the large cast of characters, the book feels a bit long to me. We get inside everyone’s heads. Also, the book veered into political wrangling and party politics where the points got a bit speech-y or maybe preachy. This may have grated on me more because we’re in the middle of presidential debate season here and I’ve had my fill of political speeches. All in all, this is not my favorite in the series, but I’m curious to read the next installment, Dead Joker.

The Lion’s Mouth by Anne Holt and Berit Reiss-Andersen

Translated by Anne Bruce

Scribner, 2016

Originally published as Løvens gap, 1997

Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.



Fear Not by Anne Holt

fear notFear Not by Anne Holt, translated by Marlaine Delargy

Originally published as Pengemannen, 2009

Vik/Stubo book 4

I borrowed this book from the library.

Anne Holt writes a couple intersecting series set in Oslo as well as standalones, and they are one of my current favorite series even though I can’t point to an individual book that’s blown me away. I’m a fan because I’m fond of the characters and, of course, I want to know how Hanne Wilhelmsen was shot and paralyzed. Because the US books were published way out of order (1222, book 8 in the Wilhelmsen series came first in the US), I’m hooked.

But back to the Vik/Stubo series. Johanne Vik is an academic who trained as a lawyer and consults with the police, and she is married to Adam Stubo, a policeman who’s first wife and child were murdered. The home-life sections of the book are quite drama-laden, or at least there is a lot that’s happened in the past, as well as Vik’s understandable anxiety about her children, particularly her neuro-atypical daughter Kristiane who is threatened in this book. In some ways it reminds me of Camilla Läckberg with the home and work sections, but the Läckberg book I have read seemed too heavy on family life. The home life is very well-balanced by the rest of the story, which involves a series of murders that are meant to look as suicides or accidental deaths excepting the Christmas Eve murder of a very popular minister. The one thing that does feel out of balance in the book is the sheer number of characters and threads in the first half of the book. I mean, I expected them to be tied together, but it was a disorienting read for a long middle stretch of the novel.

There are a few things I really like about this series: I like seeing characters who are good at what they do. I like seeing investigators who aren’t just haunted by alcohol. I like complicated plots, but ultimately I was not blown away by this particular solution.

Finally, Hanne Wilhelmsen does make an appearance, and I’ve looked up other books that haven’t been translated yet and have discovered that the fact that Holt co-authored a few installments might be holding things up. In any case, I’m tracking down as many English translations as I can find.

Finally, a note about the title. The Norwegian title is Moneyman, which gives a better sense of the conspiracy involved in the book than the English title of Fear Not, which seems to focus just on the minister’s murder, which, while important, is not the entire story. Like I said, there is a lot of plot to be unravelled.


Eva’s Eye by Karin Fossum


Eva’s Eye by Karin Fossum, translated by James Anderson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013
Originally published as Evas øye, 1995
Inspector Sejer, book 2

I bought my copy of the book.

I backtracked in my reading of the Inspector Sejer series to read the first installment, Eva’s Eye, also published as In the Darkness, and I really liked it.  The book begins with two unsolved crimes: a stabbed man’s body is found in the river, and it is determined that it’s the body of Egil, a man missing for six months. He disappeared around the time that a prostitute named Maja was murdered, and Sejer investigates these semi-cold crimes for the first third of the book. Then Fossum shifts to Eva Magnus, a struggling artist and single mother who was one of the last people to see the murdered Maja alive and was the person who discovered Egil’s corpse.

I appreciate that Sejer is not as troubled or depressed as lots of other detectives in books I read, though his penchant for working alone is pretty typical. I’m not sure I’ve ever read about such an experienced skydiver, though: over 2000 successful jumps is quite impressive.

Fossum has a great deal of sympathy for Eva, and she also knows how to write creepy and thrilling setpieces. Or maybe I’m especially susceptible to scenes that happen in remote mountain cabins at night: they automatically frighten me.  This book felt juicy in terms of characters and the slide into criminality: there’s much to discuss. Finally, I liked the way Fossum talked about Eva’s artistic process more than I like Louise Penny in the Three Pines series. I could picture Eva’s paintings more vividly than I could Penny’s character’s works.

Other reviews appear in Euro Crime, Reactions to Reading, and Crime Fiction Lover.


Death in Oslo by Anne Holt

deathinosloDeath in Oslo by Anne Holt, translated by Kari Dickson

Vik and Stubo book 3

Sphere, 2009

Originally published as Presidentens valg, 2006

I bought my copy of the book.

Death in Oslo is kind of a misleading title: this book is about the disappearance of the United States’s first female president during her first state visit of her presidency, which happens to be in Oslo. Holt alternates perspectives in every chapter, and it’s a pretty large cast of characters, including the return of Hanne Wilhelmsen, who still remains my favorite Holt character.

I bought this book because I’m an Anne Holt completist, not necessarily because I was interested in the disappearance of the first female president of the United States in Oslo. I tend to prefer books that aren’t in the broad-government-conspiracy/ international-conspiracy realm, and I liked the character through-lines in the Vik and Stubo and Hanne Wilhelmsen series a lot more than I liked the investigation in this particular book. Holt wrote the book in 2006, imagining a world where George W. Bush was not reelected in 2004. It’s a bit hard to read because the criticisms of the US Patriot Act and government surveillance feel old now (and they haven’t hanged much since this book was written).

Holt knows how to serialize: I get just enough tidbits about Vik and Wilhelmsen to keep me reading these books, as difficult as they can be to find. Ultimately, the conspiracy storyline wasn’t my favorite because the antagonists were sketched pretty broadly, but I liked the pacing and I liked most of the characters. I’m looking forward to The Lion’s Mouth and Dead Joker in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series.

Other reviews appear in Scandinavian Crime Fiction and DJ’s Krimiblog.

The Snowman by Jo Nesbø

snowmanThe Snowman by Jo Nesbø, translated by Don Bartlett
Knopf, 2011
Originally published as Snømannen (2007)
Harry Hole book 7
I bought my copy of the book.

After a few detours to the shorter, stand-alone stuff Nesbø has published in the last year or so, I’m finally back to the Harry Hole series for the very strong entry The Snowman. I understand why Nesbo wants to branch out: it’s a bit ridiculous how much danger Hole and his loved ones and colleagues can be exposed to during the course of the series, and it’s got to be draining to plot out something as intricate as The Snowman. Focusing on novellas including new characters has to be refreshing.

But back to the book at hand: it’s a very thrilling thriller, though I’m not enamored of serial killers generally. I was surprised almost the whole way through– I could predict maybe two twists, but that’s pretty good. I think I liked this installment in the series because Hole wasn’t on so completely a downward spiral and because there was some unexpectedly humane treatment by the police department, which is not something I expect in this series where police corruption has been a common theme. The theme of fatherhood and father figures was also a nice break from the more action-packed parts of the novel as well.

I like this series the great deal, and I think it’s impossible for me to pick a favorite. Part of it is because I tend to read them in quick gulps so even if parts of a book are not my favorite storyline, I read through it so quickly that the parts I like stick in my mind more.


What Never Happens by Anne Holt

what never happensWhat Never Happens by Anne Holt, translated by Kari Dickson
Grand Central Publishing, 2008
Originally published as Det som aldri skjer, 2004, also published as The Final Murder
I borrowed this book from the library
Vik and Stubo book 2

I’m a huge Anne Holt fan, even though I started with a book far into the Hanne Willhelmsen series, 1222. This series runs concurrently with the Willhelmsen series, just outside Oslo, with detective Adam Stubo and his now-wife Johanne Vik, a profiler who just gave birth to their first child. Adam leads the investigation into a series of murders of public figures: a tv talk show host, a politician, and an upcoming television news figure. Vik, on maternity leave, consults unofficially on the case.

First for the positives: Vik and Stubo’s homelife with a newborn is spot on: the exhaustion, the hormones, the craziness induced by the sleeplessness. Also, Holt humanizes almost all of her characters and has much to say about how police investigations, even if you’re not charged, turn your life upside down for no good reason.

But ultimately, the ending felt a little unsatisfying because the murderer seemed too unrealistic. This may be my serial-killer-storyline fatigue talking, or the murderer seemed especially unrealistic because the other elements of the story felt more so. I loved the first two thirds of the book but not the final third.

Other reviews appear in DJ’s Krimiblog, EuroCrime, Crimepieces, and Mysteries and Paradise.