This is the first Holt book I’ve read even though I’d heard good things about her. It deviated slightly from what I’ve come to expect from Scandi crime novels but I’m not exactly sure I like where it went.
Anne Holt has a very interesting biography, especially for a crime writer. She was a journalist and news anchor before working two years for the Oslo police. So far so good. Then she founded her own law firm and became Ministry for Justice for a year. Now that’s something you don’t usually come across! Her books are well-known and usually quite well-reviewed so when I picked this up I was expecting something quick paced, interesting and possibly a new series to delve into, another Thora or Erika to come to love.
Well, another Erika I didn’t find. I understand a lot of these protagonists have to serve as someone the readers can identify with. That’s why most of them are strong, intelligent, oftentimes loving mothers that a lot of people would like to be or become. I didn’t find Johanne to be these things, on the contrary. She’s smart alright but she’s almost afraid of where her mind takes me. I didn’t read this as scars from cases past but as a feeble attempt to make her more believable. It failed. She grated on my nerves through the whole book with her inability to communicate and her insecurity regarding her need to protect her child, which has some undisclosed learning disability. Her husband and the child’s stepfather seems to think this is hysteria and by the end of the book I’d like to agree. She was just a character who would have been immensely interesting were she not defined by her motherhood.
My problems with the characters aside, the book moved at a slow pace until the last third, when it seemed to pick up marginally for a few pages before slowing down again. I almost forced myself to finish it just to confirm my suspicions of the “mystery” behind it.
Overall, the mystery was good enough but the pace did it a massive disservice. The only character I managed to muster an ounce of sympathy for was Marcus. The others I just wanted to shake until they snapped out of their self-inflicted inertia. I did find the backdrop quite interesting (hate crimes on homosexuals) but I disliked how she used the book as her soapbox at times.
I might have to give Holt another opportunity if I ever come across another of her books at a second hand store or boot sale but I won’t be looking out for them.