translated by Tom Geddes
[Norway: Police investigator Hanne Wilhelmson has gone out to meet lawyer Karen Borg at a cabin out in the middle of nowhere]
She had no difficulty finding her way. There was an inviting glow from the windows, in welcoming contrast to the desolate shuttered cottages nearby. She hardly recognised her. Karen Borg was dressed in a shabby old tracksuit which made Hanne smile when she saw it. It was blue, with white shoulder inserts that met in a vee on the chest. She’d had one very similar herself as a child; it had served as playsuit, tracksuit, and even pyjamas before it finally wore out and proved impossible to replace. On her feet Karen had a pair of threadbare woollen slippers with holes in both heels. Her hair was uncombed and she wore no makeup. The smart, well-dressed lawyer had gone to ground , and Hanne had to stop herself scanning the room in search of her. “Sorry about my clothes,” said Karen with a smile, “but part of the freedom of being here is looking like this.”
observations: A few years ago Anne Holt’s book 1222 was published in the UK and got a fair amount of attention – I must have been one of many people who bought it (on special offer IIRC) and read it and realized quite quickly that this was well into a whole series of books – and that the main sleuth, Hanne Wilhelmsen, had a considerable backstory.
I’ve finally got around to reading the first book, and it’s very different from 1222 – which was actually the 8th in the series.
This is a police procedural set in and around Oslo, and is very much of its time – 1993. No mobile phones in general use, no quick looking-up on the computer. A report goes missing, and that’s it – there are no copies, it wasn’t written on a computer, there’s no file, no backup. The plot concerns a drugs ring which may reach into the most respectable legal circles.
Quite early on, lawyer Karen Borg, unused to criminal cases, is talking to her client:
[Her experience] was entirely limited to having yelled after a bicycle thief who was making off down Markveien with her new fifteen-gear bike. But— she had seen this on TV. Defence Counsel Matlock had said: “I don’t want to know the truth, I want to know what you’re going to say in court.” Somehow it didn’t sound quite as convincing coming from her own lips. More hesitant, perhaps. But it might be a way of eliciting something.I thought this was hilarious, and was hoping for a similar tone throughout the book, but in fact I found it rather humourless and flat – though I did enjoy the odd detail, such as the meal the two women above are about to enjoy:
The food wasn’t very sophisticated: canned reindeer-meatballs in gravy with potatoes and a cucumber salad. The cucumber didn’t go with it, Hanne thought to herself, but it filled her up.In general I much preferred the odd tone (and first person narrative) of 1222, which was an unusual book, and one that kept you guessing. Not so much with this one – but I should say that plenty of crime fiction bloggers very much liked the earlier books in the series. I am not nearly so widely-read in the area of scandi-crime-fiction, and so this is probably a case where personal taste is even more important than usual – I wouldn’t want to put anyone off the book.
The picture is from the Norwegian National Archives: there’s no date, but perhaps for its day the outfit was the equivalent of a shabby tracksuit…. And there's the reindeer ready to be turned into meatballs.