Archive for January 29, 2013

pi764d5364b057b5b7@largeI went through a stage last year of becoming bored with Nordic crime fiction. At one point four out of five Nordic books disappointed me with their sameness piling misery on misery. I wondered if the “Golden Age” had passed.

I had forgotten that several of the greats of the Nordic crime scene had many of their books still untranslated into English. The Blind Goddess, the first in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series, was one of my favourite reads of 2012, and the second in that series Blessed Are Those Who Thirst [translated by Anne Bruce] did not disappoint, and must in my opinion be a strong contender for the International Dagger.

The novel, originally published in Norwegian in 1994, is the story of two investigations carried out by an overworked  Detective Inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen during a warm Oslo spring. The title is taken from Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled. I rather like stories that differentiate between justice, righteousness and the law.

Hanne is sent to an abandoned shed where large quantities of  blood cover the walls, but there is no body. On one wall an eight digit number is written in blood. This is the first of several such occurrences until Police Attorney Hakon Sand realises the significance of the numbers….

 Hanne also has to deal with the brutal rape of a young woman, Kristine Haverstad and track down the perpetrator. The reader knows more than the police and that Hanne is in a race with Kristine ‘s father, Finn, a widower and 6’3″ dentist who is also searching for the man who has raped his daughter. 

 “All rapes are dreadful,” the police attorney mumbled. Having read for a few moments, he concurred. It was horrendous. “How did she seem?”

“An all right kind of girl. Rather sweet. Decent in every way. Medical student. Smart. Successful. And very raped.”

Blessed Are Those Who Thirst is only 211 pages long, but covers a lot of ground; the police investigations, Kristine’s trauma, Finn Haverstad’s private investigation, the motives of the warped perpetrator, and also succeeds in developing the characters we first met in The Blind Goddess.

Personal relationships play a big part of this story, Finn’s love for his daughter, Hakon’s affair with corporate lawyer Karen Borg, Hakon’s friendship with Hanne, and Hanne’s dilemma whether to “come out” to her work colleagues about her longterm relationship with her lover, Cecilie. 

“Yes. It’s about time you got to see what I’m up to when I wander off outdoors during the night. This bloodbath is probably no worse than your own operating rooms.” Cecilie did not believe her. She began to read again but was clearly preoccupied with what Hanne was about to say.

“I mean it my friend. Put on your clothes. We’re going to inspect a crime scene. Hurry up.”

Anne Holt has the knack of getting inside the heads of her characters, changing perspectives with ease, and getting the reader to identify with the people in the story. Kristine becomes more than a victim, she becomes a real person during the horrifying rape. We can sympathise with her father, and fume silently with Hanne as her boss Chief Inspector Kaldbakken comes up with the appalling expression “self-inflicted rapes…”.

The reader is also drawn into the immigration debate over asylum seekers.

They were offered five hours of Norwegian lessons per week, and the remainder of their time was a sea of frustration, uncertainty and tremendous anxiety.

But what really makes this book special is that author Anne Holt has cleverly created such a likeable character in Hanne Wilhelmsen. I can highly recommend the series and am waiting  impatiently for the next in the series to be translated.

“A pink Harley-Davidson! The worst thing I’ve ever seen!” He looked her up and down.

“On the other hand, you’re altogether too attractive to be riding a motorbike at all. At the very least, it would have to be a pink one.”

……………………..

Red-haired Erik was elated. By the end of the journey he didn’t know which he was more in love with: Hanne Wilhelmsen or her big rose-colored Harley.