BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO THIRST: ANNE HOLT trans ANNE BRUCE

Posted: January 29, 2013 in Norway, review

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.   

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Comments
  1. Norman – Oh, I agree that Anee Holt has a lot of talent. I’m glad you enjoyed this one. Mostly I’m glad that it’s a sign that there’s a lot of strong Scandi crime fiction still out there…

  2. Jose Ignacio says:

    Norman – Thanks for your review. I’ve just downloaded the first in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series and I look forward to reading this one too.

  3. Norman Price says:

    Margot, there is also a lot of Scandi crime fiction that possibly would not get published if it was English. The Stieg Larsson effect is still operating given a fresh boost by the films, and TV series The Killing, and Borgen.
    Obviously I hope the Wilhelmsen series keeps improving, and the characters continue to develop. But a series can maintain itself if the lead protagonist is likeable and interesting Brunetti, Montalbano, Andy Dalziel, Morse and Martin Beck for example.

    Jose Ignacio I do hope you enjoy The Blind Goddess as much as I did.

  4. kathy d. says:

    Omigod! You have the next book over there? I’m surfing the Internet and checking every online bookseller and the library catalogue looking for the second book in this series.
    I concur. The Blind Goddess was one of my 2012 favorites … such a great character. (I dread reading the book where she is injured and starts to become bitter.)
    “Self-inflicted rape”? That is as bad as the horrible remarks made over here by two politicians who lost the elections as a result of their comments on rape, which incensed women.
    I have to find this book and lock myself in to read it.
    Book Depository — or wherever — here I come.

  5. […] I 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.  […]

  6. Anne Holt is one of the first Scandi authors I read, and one of my favourites. This review does nothing but entice me to read it as soon as possible. Thanks!

  7. Philip Amos says:

    You move me to give Holt another try, Norman. I picked up her first in English and was so appalled by a sense of artificiality and formula writing in the cause of a hidden agenda (but not too well-hidden) that I abandoned it halfway. Mind you, if an author introduces at the start a profiler trained by the FBI we’re in trouble, for I’m thoroughly sick of that myth. I now simply don’t read any novel that does the FBI-trained profiler trope. There are academic studies of profiling, and the statistics for one thing demonstrate all too clearly that the British profiling system is greatly superior, and for obvious reasons. But far fewer — I know of only one, in fact — British profilers write books proclaiming their ‘genius’. This is a touch digressive, but it’s an important point — crime novels cannot claim to be realistic, but nor should they be grounded in sheer mythology.

  8. Norman Price says:

    Philip, I haven’t read that series but The Blind Goddess and Blessed remind me a little of the Martin Beck series. The blend of social problems, personal problems and police procedural I find particularly interesting.
    The British profiling system does make mistakes as in the tragic Joanna Yeats case when the local police decided the eccentric lonely bachelor retired school teacher landlord fitted the profile for the murder. When the actual murderer was arrested he was a much younger man with a regular job and girl friend.

  9. kathy d. says:

    The Hanne Wilhelmsen series is quite different from the other series with a profiler. Hanne is an exceptional character in many ways. I loved The Blind Goddess and eagerly await book two.

  10. kathy d. says:

    I’m on page 78 of book 2, and I already concur with your opinion. I cannot get enough of them and want book 3 already. Can’t wait to loan this one to reader-friends.

    • Norman Price says:

      Kathy I am so pleased you are enjoying BATWT by Anne Holt. I am getting to the stage that I’ll ignore blurbs and prize award committees and just rely on bloggers I know for my reading. Needless to say I am missing dear Maxine’s recommendations a lot. In fact I would rather go back and read the back list of authors I like than risk wasting precious time on new authors. Probably the wrong approach but I am wary of the overhyped and over blurbled.

  11. kathy d. says:

    I rely more on bloggers’ reviews and comments than on book reviews. Or I rely on friends’ recommendations on crime fiction and other fiction.
    I, too, miss Maxine’s recommendations. I have several books she reviewed favorably on my TBR lists, enough to last me a long time. However, I will consult her fantastic website Petrona to read other reviews when my supply runs out.
    I am now reading the new Helene Thurston Irene Huss book The Golden Calf and thinking that Maxine would have liked it and she would have enjoyed Hanne’s book 2 also.

  12. […] reviews Camilla Ceder’s Babylon, which she found enjoyable but not particularly remarkable. Norm at Crimescraps reviews Blessed are Those Who Thirst by Anne Holt and finds he’s ready to enjoy Nordic crime […]

  13. […] at Crimepieces and Norman at Crimescraps have also reviewed this […]

  14. […] are Those Who Thirst has been review at Crimepieces (Sarah), at Crimescraps (Norman), at Ms. Wordopolis Reads (Rebecca) and at Amazon Customer Review (by Simon […]

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