Thursday, March 31, 2016

Review: Ordeal by Jorn Lier Horst tr. Anne Bruce

Today's review is again courtesy of CrimeTime's Bob Cornwell.

Ordeal by Jorn Lier Horst, tr. Anne Bruce (320 pages, March 2016, Sandstone Press Ltd, ISBN: 1910124745)

After the international developments of THE CAVEMAN, more domestic issues are at the forefront of the latest book to feature Chief Inspector William Wisting and his daughter Line. An opening chapter finds Wisting contemplating his relationships with the three principal women in his life (but only briefly, as regular readers might expect): his current boss Assistant Chief of Police Christine Thiis, fifteen years his junior and so far careful to keep her professional distance; his pregnant daughter Line now established in a nearby house, as she struggles (with occasional help from her father) to expunge any trace of Viggo Hansen, its previous occupant (discovered four months dead in the previous book); and Suzanne, until recently a regular feature in Wisting’s life, but who has now moved on and is running a café in the centre of Larvik, their mutual home town. Also contemplating a new start in Larvik is another single mother, Sofie Lund née Mandt, grand-daughter of a prominent local criminal. He’s now dead, and Sofie (along with her daughter, the infant Maja) is moving into his old house which, nineteen years before, she had vowed never to re-enter.

But it is Suzanne that kicks off the major plot line with her report of an unusual reaction from a patron of her café to a newspaper report of the latest case causing Wisting’s brow to furrow: the disappearance “without trace” six months ago of local taxi-driver Jens Hummel. Meanwhile the ever practical Line, having left, maybe permanently, the pressure of her job as a journalist, and whilst dreading the impending birth, is set on giving her child the best (rural) start in life. Out shopping she is recognised by Sofie. Not only were they at primary school together but Sofie is a fan of her work as a journalist. Clearly a friendship is destined, and besides, there is a mysterious safe in Sofie’s grandfather’s house to be explored.

As I suggested, a low-key entry in the series, I guess deliberately. Arguably there are too many crime novels intent on delivering shock and awe. This one proceeds calmly, though with steadily mounting tension, particularly as an ancient pistol is found in Sofie’s grandfather’s safe, and it proves to have been used in a recent murder, one about to be prosecuted in court. Horst’s emphasis is as usual on Wisting’s team and their meticulous police work, Line contributing the occasional, often crucial development. The process is never less than fascinating.

But if you were hoping that with fireworks largely missing from the major narrative (though some actual fireworks play a key role in the story), Wisting might have time to reveal a little more about himself, you could be disappointed. Some fleeting memories of his dead wife, some philosophising with Suzanne over a quote from Nietzsche is all. His weary resignation is also revealed, rather than anger, over recent changes in Norwegian society. A little more emotion – and perhaps some humour amongst the police team – might lend the Wisting books more depth and render them a trifle more sympathetic.

And will Wisting redeem his vow to Line to be present at the birth of his first grandchild? I’m taking no bets, and you’ll have to read the book to find out...

Bob Cornwell
March 2016

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