Jorn Lier Horst’s previous book, Closed for Winter, was on the shortlist for the 2013 Petrona Award for Scandinavian Crime Fiction. His crime novels have only recently been translated into English and the series featuring Chief Inspector William Wisting, if hits to this blog are anything to go by, has been well received over here. I like the books because, although Horst clearly uses his experience as a murder detective to add accurate detail to the narrative, police procedure is never allowed to overshadow the story.
In The Hunting Dogs, Wisting’s role in a murder case years earlier comes under scrutiny when it is discovered that evidence was falsified during the original investigation. Suspended from duty, he uses his enforced inactivity to look more closely into the case and discover where errors were made. Wisting’s journalist daughter, Line, is also investigating a murder on a street in Larvik. In the pursuit of a story for her newspaper she also becomes drawn into helping her father prove his innocence.
There’s something fascinating about the reopening of an old investigation. I think it’s a mixture of the uneasy dead waiting for final closure but also the fact that these cases can rest heavily on the original detectives. The death of Cecilia Linde hasn’t lost any of its poignancy, even after a significant lapse in time, and the reader is firmly behind Wisting as he tries to find out who compromised the original investigation. Like Horst’s earlier books, The Hunting Dogs is well balanced between police investigation and family ties. The relationship between William and Line is explored further in the book and conveys the love and respect between this father and daughter.
The Hunting Dogs is a more substantial read than either Dregs or Closed for Winter. Winner of The Glass Key for the top Nordic crime novel in 2013, it’s my favourite book so far in this excellent series.
Thanks to Sandstone Press for my copy of the book. The translation was by Anne Bruce.
Jorn Lier Horst’s Dregs acquired a number fans when it was published in 2012 including Maxine Clarke at the Petrona blog. It is sad to note that Lier Horst’s second book to be translated into English, Closed for Winter, has been submitted as an entry for the 2014 Petrona Award for Translated Scandinavian Crime Fiction which was set up in Maxine’s memory. Dregs picked up the story of police inspector William Wisting more or less mid series and the publishers have made the wise decision to translate the books forward from this point so that there is continuity in the narrative.
Ove Bakkerud arrives at his summer cottage in the middle of winter to discover that it has been ransacked after a burglary. Checking the neighbouring properties, he discovers the body of a man beaten to death. William Wisting investigates the case which is complicated by the presence of his daughter living in a cottage near to the scene of the murder. When more deaths follow, he travels to Lithuania to follow the trail of what is clearly more than a burglary gone wrong.
Lier Horst has recently retired as a senior investigating officer in the Vestfold police district. As in the previous novel, his experience in investigating crime comes through clearly on the page and the reader is often treated to small snippets of why the investigation proceeds in a particular way. This makes for a solid police procedural with a strong emphasis on the method by which crimes are solved.
Wisting is an attractive character, grieving for his dead wife but happy with a new partner. His relationship with his journalist daughter, Line, which was one of the highlights of Dregs, is explored further here. I wasn’t was enamoured of the ending as some other reviewers but overall the book was an excellent read. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the series when Lier Horst speaks at the Iceland Noir event.
Thanks to Sandstone Press for my review copy. The translation was by Anne Bruce.
One of the strengths of Scandinavian crime fiction is the role that the landscape plays in shaping the narrative. In some of the strongest crime novels coming from Scandinavia, including Mons Kallentoft’s Midwinter Sacrifice and Jorn Lier Horst’s Dregs, isolated communities, and the secrets buried within them, are at the heart of the plotting. This theme is continued in Camilla Ceder’s Frozen Moment where a crime committed fifteen years earlier is revisited and atoned in the present day.
It is December in a small town in the Gothenburg region and a local garage owner has been shot in the head and then repeatedly run over by a car. Inspector Christian Tell is called in to investigate the strange killing which may have its origins in a local family feud. When a second man is killed in similar circumstances however, Tell has to look beyond the confines of the community and try and link the two murders.
Local journalist Seja Lundberg is attracted to Inspector Tell but has her own secrets. She recognises the first victim and slowly becomes aware that events of fifteen years earlier play a key role in the crime. She must then try to resolve her own involvement in the case with her burgeoning relationship with Tell. He in the meantime is uncomfortable at becoming involved with a witness and finally realise that Seja knows more than she is revealing.
This was a very interesting, albeit slow read where the isolated, icy community dominated the narrative descriptions. I had a strong visual sense of the landscape and the isolation felt by those in such a small community. Another strength of the book was the relationship between Christian and Seja, two older people who have had their share of failed relationships but are attempting to develop something new.
The crime story was well plotted although the parallel story of Maya Granith, set in 1993 I found less interesting. The fact that it was narrated from the victim’s point of view meant that it was a shock when she was killed although this did mean her personality hung over the subsequent narrative .
I found the book an interesting, slowly unfolding read which stayed with me for a long time. I thought the translation by Marlaine Delargy was excellent and am looking forward to future books by this writer.
The book has also been reviewed at the Nordic Book Blog, Reactions to Reading and Eurocrime.
There have been quite a few blog posts about book covers recently, with discussions ranging from how relevant the cover image is to the plot, how some book covers are blatantly copying the artwork of other authors and whether blurbs accurately reflect the content of the book, or worse contain spoilers. It’s an interesting topic especially as I specifically bought this book because of its cover. It depicts a single trainer lying at the edge of the shoreline. This is essentially the nub of the book’s investigation, the discovery of a number of dismembered feet belonging to different victims that are found washed up in Stavern in Norway.
The victims are discovered to be largely elderly men who were involved in the Norwegian resistance fifty years earlier. Investigated by police inspector William Wisting, an experienced murder case detective, the case is hampered by the unwillingness of the victims’ families to talk about the unregistered guns that each member of the gang had in their possession. Meanwhile, Wisting’s daughter Line is a journalist who is researching the effects of imprisonment on murderers who are subsequently released. Her research begins to overlap with Wisting’s case and collide towards the end of the book.
Dregs contains everything I like about Scandinavian crime fiction. There is so much of it to read now that sometimes I forget why I like it so much – the excellent plotting and the quality of the writing. In effect, this a police procedural in the vein of Nesbo and Indridason. It has a nice pool of suspects which coincide with the interviewees of Wisting’s daughter. This coincidence or ‘synchronicity’ as the book calls it doesn’t tax the readers credulity too far and in fact is made to seem entirely plausible. Also, although references to WW2 abound in contemporary Scandinavian crime fiction, this aspect of the book wasn’t too laboured and I didn’t feel that we were going over old ground. I thought the narrative structure, linking past and present and the work of the two main protagonists – murder investigation and journalism, a particularly strong one. And Horst, a policeman, can really write well and a credit is due too to the translator Ann Bruce.
My only reservation about the book is that although it is the first book by Horst to have been published in English, there are obviously previous books in the series yet to be translated. The book assumes that the reader knows about Wisting’s dead wife, a previous case that Wisting and his daughter were both involved in, the development of his relationship with his girlfriend Suzanne and his dislike of Tommy, Line’s boyfriend. I don’t usually mind this if I’ve made a conscious choice to read a book in the middle of a series but with translations you are at the mercy of the publisher. However this was the only downside of a book that was a very enjoyable read and I’m already looking forward to further translations of Horst’s books.
Other reviews of Dregs can be found at Crime Segments and Petrona. Both reviewers make similar comments about the odd translation order.
For the discussions on book covers look here and here.
The latest reviews for December, including books by Scandinavian writers Hakan Nesser and Kjell Eriksson can be found over at crimesquad.com