Monday, November 20, 2017

Review: In Dust and Ashes by Anne Holt tr. Anne Bruce

In Dust and Ashes by Anne Holt translated by Anne Bruce, November 2017, 400 pages, Corvus, ISBN: 1782398821

Reviewed by Lynn Harvey.
(Read more of Lynn's reviews for Euro Crime here.)

Oslo, Norway: January 2016
Kjell Bonsaksen is looking forward to his retirement from the police and his move to Provence. Squeezing ketchup onto the hot dog, he glances through the window towards the petrol pumps as a man approaches the entrance doors. Their eyes meet and Bonsaksen freezes mid-bite. The man fills his cup at the coffee dispenser and as he passes Bonsaksen, he softly says: “You knew I was innocent. You did nothing.”

Oslo: December 2001

Jonas has continuously recalculated the chronology: if he hadn’t had that extra coffee; if he hadn’t cut his hand and allowed little Dina to bandage it; if he hadn’t fumbled the keys or stopped to sort out the junk mail in the mailbox; those misplaced seconds that led to the fatal timing of a little girl running out into the road and stumbling. He had screamed as he tried to push the wheel of the car from his daughter’s body and he had screamed “My fault” at the bewildered driver, “Mine.”

Oslo: January 2016
Henrik Holme is blocked and jostled by the waiting crowd of journalists as he pushes Hanne’s wheelchair out of the courtroom. Flash photography and shouted questions gradually subside as the journalists examine their phones; the news of the death of Iselin Havorn has pushed the Extremist Trial’s verdict off their agenda.

These days Henrik has his own office and reports to Chief Inspector Sorensen. From seven in the morning until ten at night, he shuttles between this office and his mentor Hanne's apartment, should she need him. Now it is evening and he is staring despondently at his empty in-tray when a burly man darkens the doorway and places an old blue ring-binder on his desk, insisting that Henrik and Hanne look into the case.

Henrik explains that he cannot take a case unless it is referred by the Chief, no matter how much he sympathises over a criminal getting away. The man interrupts, “He didn’t get away,” and tells Henrik that he, Superintendent Bonsaksen, cannot enjoy his retirement until … well. The man was convicted and served time. He never fought the charge of killing his wife. But Bonsaksen always doubted the verdict. When, the other day, he bumped into the man – his eyes were … dead. That man lost everything, Bonsaksen tells Henrik. Jonas Abrahamsen deserves another chance.

Confined to a wheelchair, Hanne Wilhelmsen advises the Oslo police on cold cases from the apartment she shares with her wife and daughter and is assisted by Detective Henrik Holme, a talented but isolated investigator. Hanne is between official cases when she becomes obsessed with the suicide of wealthy businesswoman and blogger Iselin Havorn. Havorn (meaning Sea Eagle) was a successful Marxist-Leninist journalist who, after becoming ill with what she decided was mercury poisoning and electromagnetic sensitivity, had turned towards alternative cures, an alternative lifestyle, conspiracy theories and eventually right-wing nationalism. Her wealth had been founded upon business interests in her wife’s herbal cure company. Recently she became notorious when unmasked as the writer of a virulently racist blog and her sudden death with its suicide note is a media sensation. But Hanne cannot believe that a woman such as Havorn would have killed herself.

Meanwhile Henrik becomes equally concerned by the guilty verdict that convicted Jonas Abrahamsen of the murder of his wife on New Year’s Eve two years after their daughter’s death. The couple were divorcing and Henrik thinks that the traumatised man’s mistake had been to deny visiting his wife on that New Year’s Eve. When Jonas was identified as the figure on the path in the background of a neighbour’s party photograph, with no other suspect in the shooting of his ex-wife, he was convicted. With no fight left in him to appeal, he went to prison for eight years.

Now Henrik and Hanne are at odds with each other. Each is convinced that their cases need investigation, each disagrees with the other’s preoccupation but neither have official permission to investigate. Then everything, it appears, must be put on hold when the child of a national lottery winner is abducted.


IN DUST AND ASHES is described by its publisher as the tenth and “final instalment” in Anne Holt’s “Hanne Wilhelmsen” crime series. An undoubted giant of Nordic crime fiction, Holt has a fine reputation and a host of fans. I have failed to keep up with Hanne since the earlier novels – not following her as a character and the twists, turns and shooting that have led to her confinement to a wheelchair. Nor have I got to know Henrik Holme until now. Therefore I’ll admit to finding the going a bit difficult. The novel unfolds from the working relationship of Hanne and Henrik. Hanne appears to be withdrawing from all social contact other than with Henrik and her family whilst Henrik struggles to modify his compulsive tics and obsessions and to draw closer to “fitting in”. As the plot throws it spotlight on Jonas – it seems as if most of this book’s characters are expressing psychological misery and alienation (with due cause you could say) and this leaves me with the uneasy feeling that Holt has become the queen of bleak. Except for the happy retiree Bonsaksen, whose insistence on re-examining the murder conviction of Jonas provides the impetus for unfolding an ingenious puzzle of a plot.

A thorough police procedural and a tour de force in character study and plotting, IN DUST AND ASHES eventually develops suspense and pace and hurtles towards its ending. But it left me unsure of my feelings about it all. I don’t mind my Nordic Noir being dark but I’m not too sure of almost (and I do say almost) relentlessly bleak.

Lynn Harvey, November 2017

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Publishing Deal - Philip Kerr

From the Bookbrunch newsletter:
Quercus has signed three novels by Philip Kerr, continuing his historical noir series featuring Detective Bernie Gunther.
Reviews and series order can be found on the Euro Crime website.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

TV News: The Sinner

The Sinner starts on Netflix on Tuesday. Based on German author Petra Hammesfahr's novel, is stars Jessica Biel and Bill Pullman.
"When a young mother inexplicably stabs a stranger to death, a sympathetic detective struggles to unlock the mystery buried in her missing memories."
Fiona Walker reviewed THE SINNER, translated into English by John Brownjohn, for Euro Crime back in 2008:
Petra Hammesfahr's THE SINNER is a brilliant book, an absolutely masterly piece of crime fiction. Once again I find myself endlessly grateful for the continuing zeitgeist of translated crime, which means that we English readers get the treat of reading this exemplary psychological thriller, a haunting descent into the torments of one woman's youthful years.

...there's been a lot of buzz about Stieg Larsson's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and deservedly so, but this first translation from Hammesfahr is without doubt of equal quality, and deserves just as much praise.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

New Releases - November 2017

Here's a snapshot of what I think is published for the first time in November 2017 (and is usually a UK date but occasionally will be a US or Australian date). November and future months (and years) can be found on the Future Releases page. If I've missed anything do please leave a comment.
• Anthology - CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour (ed. Martin Edwards)
• Anthology - Murder on Christmas Eve (ed. Cecily Gayford)
• Amphlett, Rachel - Hell to Pay #4 Detective Kay Hunter
• Blackhurst, Jenny - The Foster Child
• Boland, Shalini - The Secret Mother
• Bonda, Katarzyna - Girl at Midnight
• Bowen, Rhys - The Ghost of Christmas Past #17 Molly Murphy, PI, 1900s New York
• Bruen, Ken - The Ghosts of Galway #13 Jack Taylor
• Caan, Alex - First to Die #2 DCI Kate Riley and Zain Harris
• Carrisi, Donato - The Girl in the Fog
• Child, Lee - The Midnight Line #22 Jack Reacher, ex MP, USA
• Cutts, Lisa - Buried Secrets
• de Jager, Anja - Death on the Canal #3 Lotte Meerman, a Cold Case Detective, Amsterdam
• Dearman, Lara - The Devil's Claw #1 Jennifer Dorey, journalist & DCI Michael Gilbert, Guernsey
• Doherty, Paul/P C - Devil's Wolf #19 Hugh Corbett
• Fielden, T P - Resort to Murder #2 Miss Dimont, Temple Regis, Devon
• Fortin, Sue - The Birthday Girl
• Fyfield, Frances - Welcome the Stranger #4 Di Porteous
• Griffiths, Elly - The Vanishing Box #4 Stephens and Mephisto, Brighton, 1950s
• Gunn, Alastair - Cold Christmas #4 DCI Antonia Hawkins, London
• Hamdy, Adam - Freefall #2 John Wallace
• Harvey, John - Going Down Slow and Other Stories
• Holliday, Susi - The Deaths of December
• Holt, Anne - In Dust and Ashes #10 Hanne Wilhelmsen
• Jackson, Corrie - The Perfect Victim #2 Sophie Kent, Journalist
• Jonasson, Ragnar - Whiteout #4 Ari Thor, Policeman
• Kernick, Simon - The Hanged Man #2 DI Ray Mason and Tina Boyd, London
• Kirk, Margaret - Shadow Man #1 ex-Met Detective Inspector Lukas Mahler, Inverness
• Koreto, R J - Death at the Emerald #3 Lady Frances Ffolkes, Edwardian era
• Kray, Roberta - Survivor
• Law, J S - The Fear Within #2 Lieutenant Danielle Lewis, Royal Navy
• Lebor, Adam - District VIII #1 Balthazar Kovacs, Detective, Budapest
• Lehtolainen, Leena - Below the Surface #8 Detective Maria Kallio, Helsinki
• Llobregat, Jordi - The Secret of Vesalius
• Lloyd, Catherine - Death Comes to the School #5 Kurland St. Mary Mysteries
• MacBride, Stuart - Now We Are Dead #1 DS Roberta Steel
• MacLeod, Torquil - Menace in Malmo #5 Inspector Anita Sundstrom
• Mariani, Scott - The Bach Manuscript #16 Ben Hope, Ex-SAS
• Marsons, Angela - Broken Bones (ebook only) #7 DI Kim Stone
• McIntyre, WHS - Last Will #9 Best Defense
• O'Keeffe, Pat - Blind Chance
• Oksanen, Sofi - Norma
• O'Sullivan, Ronnie - Double Kiss #2 Frankie James
• Petit, Chris - Pale Horse Riding #2 Schlegel and Morgen, Germany, 1943
• Pfluger, Andreas - In the Dark #1 Jenny Aaron
• Poulson, Christine - Cold, Cold Heart #2 Katie Flanagan
• Rahman, Khurrum - East of Hounslow #1 Jay Qasim
• Ramsay, Caro - The Suffering of Strangers #9 DCI McAlpine, DS Anderson and DS Costello, Glasgow
• Riches, Marnie - The Cover Up #1 O'Briens, Manchester
• Sharp, Zoe - Fox Hunter #12 Charlie Fox, ex-Special Forces soldier turned bodyguard
• Shaw, M B - Murder at the Mill #1 Iris Grey, portrait painter and amateur sleuth, Hampshire
• Sten, Viveca - Tonight You're Dead #4 Sandhamn Murders
• Taylor, Marsali - Death in Shetland Waters #6 Shetland Sailing Mysteries
• Todd, Charles - Casualty of War #9 Bess Crawford, battlefield nurse, WWI
• Tyler, L C - Fire #4 John Grey, lawyer, 1657
• Valtonen, Jussi - They Know Not What They Do
• Veste, Luca - The Bone Keeper #1 DC Louise Henderson
• Wynn, Patricia - Whisper of Death #6 Gideon Mars & Mrs Kean