Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What I'm Reading - Anne Holt

The latest book by Norwegian author Anne Holt, is called 'Punishment' in the UK and 'What is Mine' in the US. I'm reading the UK edition which has an excellent British translation by Kari Dickson. I don't know whether the US version has the same translation or whether it's been de-anglicised.

From the back cover :

"A serial killer is on the loose in Norway - a killer of the worst kind. He is abducting children and murdering them - in an undetectable way that confounds the police. He then returns the child's body to the mother with a desperately cruel note: You Got What You Deserved.

It is a perplexing and terrible case, and Police Superintendent Adam Stubo is the unlucky man in charge of finding the killer. In desperation he recruits former FBI profiler Johanne Vik, a woman with an extensive knowledge and understanding of criminal history. So far the killer has abducted three children, but one child has not yet been returned to her mother. Is there a chance she is still alive...?

This suspenseful and sophisticated crime novel is the first in a brand new series, which has already been a huge bestseller in Europe."

I'm about 3/4 through it now and a paragraph at the beginning of chapter 8 (p25) caught my attention:

"A child doesn't know when it's going to die. It has no concept of death. Instinctively it fights for life, like a lizard that's willing to give up its tail when threatened with extermination. All beings are genetically programmed to fight for survival. Children as well. But they have no concept of death. A child is frightened of real things. The dark. Strangers, perhaps, being separated from their family, pain, scary noises and the loss of objects. Death, on the other hand, is incomprehensible for a mind that is not yet mature.

A child does not know that it is going to die."

From what I've read, both titles are appropriate but I think the US cover (which is similar to the Spanish cover listed on better reflects the content. It's certainly a reasonable representation of an early scene in the book. The UK cover, on the other hand - it's hard to make out the age of the figure and no-one has been blindfolded (so far). It makes the book seem much darker than it actually is. It's a distressing theme but there is little actual violence.

Full review to appear on the Euro Crime Website in a few days.

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