Review: Anne Holt – Blessed Are Those Who Thirst

Anne HoltNow that publisher Corvus is translating the books featuring Hanne Wilhelmsen in order, we are getting to see the development of the character from her early police career to the physically and emotionally damaged Hanne in 1222. The first book in the series, The Blind Goddess, was a substantial read and the best Holt I’d read to date. In contrast, Blessed Are Those Who Thirst is a slimmer, quick read that nevertheless shows why the series has become so popular in Norway.

A series of bloody crime scenes appear around Oslo. Rooms with significant amounts of blood are being discovered but with the victims removed from the scene.  The only clue detective Hanne Wilhelmsen has to help her investigation are a series of eight digit numbers that are written in blood on the walls. Hanne and her colleague, police attorney Håkon Sand, discover the digits correspond to the identification numbers of recent immigrants.  Hanne’s focus on the case is interrupted when she is forced to warn the father of a recent rape victim against pursuing his own investigation. However, both father and daughter are shell-shocked from the attack and intent on meting out revenge on the rapist.

Holt is Norway’s former Minister of Justice and her legal experience is what makes these books so interesting to read. There is always a solid judicial aspect to the narrative, as dilemmas and complex issues are tackled head-on. In Blessed Are Those Who Thirst, although the bloodied crime scenes are the focus of the investigation, by far the most moving sections involved the rape victim Kristine. The violence of the attack, her shock and despair afterwards and the impact of the rape on her father are dealt with in a moving manner. The inability of either of them to move on and Hanne’s instinctive sympathy for them both forms the backbone of the story. Once more we see the lines between right and wrong begin to blur.

The development of Hanne as a character, in such a slim book, is sacrificed to the story although we get insights into her conflict as she becomes increasingly unable to hide her female partner, Cecile, from work colleagues. There is, however, a moving section when Hanne asks Cecile what she would do if she, Hanne, was raped. For those of us who know the cynical and damaged Hanne from the much later book 1222, it makes you wonder the trials that the character will be going through over the next few novels.

Overall this was a moving, short read that I’m sure will please Holt’s existing fans. It left you with some interesting questions about the nature of justice and what we might be compelled to do in a similar situation.

Thanks to Corvus for my copy of the book. The translation was by Anne Bruce.

14 thoughts on “Review: Anne Holt – Blessed Are Those Who Thirst

  1. I read 1222 and now have Blind Goddess lined up, and I’m sure I will be continuing with the series, so look forward to this one. I bought 1222 in a Kindle sale – that’s great when it works, as this time: I get to find a new author, and will certainly buy others, so everyone wins!


    1. Sounds like a good idea Moira. I don’t read much on kindle, only what I can’t get any other way. Given how much I like new technology it’s funny that my reading hasn’t taken to it.


  2. I found this the least satisfactory of the Holt books so far available in English. I believe there is another one de later in the year and I’m hoping it will be stronger.


  3. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – An excellent review as ever. I think you’ve put your finger on something really salient about this series. We see Hanne Wilhelmsen’s character grow and evolve throughout the series, so I think it’s one of those series that it’s best to read in order. It will be interesting to see what happens to her between this novel and 1222 and it makes me wonder (yet again!) about the order in which books are translated.


  4. Interesting author. I went back and read some of your other reviews of her books. You have really enjoyed them. I only have the first in the Vik and Stubo (?) series to read. But hope to do that sometime this year.


  5. kathy d.

    I agree with your review of this book. I liked it. I like Hanne Wilhelmsen, even in 1222. And I am also waiting eagerly for book 3. You bring up a good point: What terrible crises will befall Hanne between this book and the final one. I dread to think, although we know that horrific events are coming, which cause her disability, anger and bitterness.

    One slight digression: You must run out and get a copy of Mari Strachan’s The Earth Huns Along in B-Flat. I thought I couldn’t enjoy a book told from a 12 1/2 year old’s viewpoint. Wrong I was. Gwenni Morgan is delightful, questions everything and everyone, and is her own person, with opinions who isn’t afraid to state them. She is thinking about people, religion, life, the universe. I hope there will be a sequel.


    1. I’m actually listening to this book on audio at the moment, Kathy. I got it after I read the review at the Petrona site. My parents are welsh so the whole story has an emotional resonance for me, even down to the accent of the narrator.


  6. kathy d.

    Once I knew a woman from Wales, whose last name was Pugh, which I just learned is a very common name there. She had bright red hair. If one dared to say Britain in her presence, she got upset; we all had to say Wales, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland in recognition of each country’s sovereignty. I learned the lesson.


  7. Pingback: The Best of April’s Reading | crimepieces

  8. Pingback: Blessed Are Those Who Thirst by Anne Holt | Ms. Wordopolis Reads

  9. Pingback: Review: Anne Holt – Death of the Demon | crimepieces

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