Review: Anne Holt – The Lion’s Mouth

The Lion's MouthI’m a big fan of Anne Holt’s writing and her Hanne Wilhelmsen series in particular. Nevertheless, I found her last book translated into English, Death of the Demon, disappointing in that it was a relatively slight story that failed to engage. However, Holt is back on form with The Lion’s Mouth. She portrays the collective shock that follows the death of the Norwegian Prime Minister and the subsequent investigation. The story is a surprise. Instead of a tale of high political drama, we get intimate portraits of the people around the dead politician and a surprising conclusion.

Norwegian Prime Minster Birgitte Volter is found dead in her office, shot in the head by an unknown assailant. Norway is put on high security alert and rumours circulate about possible attempts on the life of the Swedish PM and attacks on other Scandinavian countries. A massive police operation gets underway to find the perpetrator and Hanne Wilhelmsen, currently working in the US, finds herself unable to keep away from Oslo. She stays in the apartment of Billy T, the physically huge detective with whom she has developed a surprising working relationship. Secrets from Brigitte’s past threaten to overshadow the investigation but may also hold the key to the tragedy.

Although this is a Hanne Wilhelmsen book, the detective plays a relatively minor role in the narrative. Instead we are treated to multiple points of view, principally from the politicians and family of Birgitte. In less experienced hands this might make following the plot difficult but it resulted in a very human story. The politicians, in particular, came across as a disparate bunch of characters desperate to hold onto their positions of authority.

As in previous Holt books we get a strong sense of the judicial system playing out its role. This is unsurprising from an author who served as Norway’s Minister of Justice in the 1990s and her experience adds authenticity to the narrative. However, it is worth mentioning that the book appears to have been co-written. I don’t have a problem with this but I’d have preferred to see the her fellow writer’s name on the front cover as well as the title page

Despite this, The Lion’s Mouth was my first book of 2015 and I hope all my reading to be of a similar quality.

Thanks to Corvus for my review copy. The translation was by Anne Bruce.

18 thoughts on “Review: Anne Holt – The Lion’s Mouth

  1. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – Lovely review as ever! I prefer my crime fiction to get down to the human level like that – to explore the relationships and so on, rather than go for high political drama. So I’m glad this one does that. And I like the Hanne Wilhelmsen stories, so I’m glad this one’s a good ‘un.


  2. Sarah, this sounds just like my kind of (political) thriller. Anne Holt’s fiction is already on my list of new authors to read having read Moira’s review of “The Blind Goddess” and reference to “1222.” She seems to be a versatile writer.


  3. I’ve likewise enjoyed the couple of Holt novels I’ve read, and this one sounds like another I should keep an eye out for. Many thanks for a tantalizing account of it!

    her fellow writer’s name

    Just out of interest, who is it?


  4. Thanks for the very clear review, Sarah. I’ve read one or two of Anne Holt’s and find the pace somewhat slow — a little too much detail, especially minor characters’ back stories and descriptions of their lives. Sounds as though there may be a little too much of that (for me!) in The Lions’ Mouth, given the large cast of characters. But I’ll have a look just the same!


  5. Pingback: 1222 by Anne Holt | Tipping My Fedora

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