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Holt, Anne - 'Death in Oslo' (translated by Kari Dickson)
Paperback: 405 pages (Dec. 2009) Publisher: Sphere ISBN: 0751537160

DEATH IN OSLO is the third outing for husband and wife team, profiler Johanne Vik and DCI Adam Stubo and in this one they are joined by the lead character from another of Anne Holt's series - retired police officer, Hanne Wilhelmsen.

The newly elected and first female President of the United States is making her first official overseas visit and Helen Lardahl Bentley has chosen Norway, home to her ancestors. On the morning of the Norwegian National Day she fails to appear for her breakfast meeting. It seems the impossible has happened: she has disappeared from a locked hotel room with no appearances on the CCTV covering the exits.

Chaos ensues. The Americans arrive in force and are reluctant to co-operate with the Norwegian investigation. The liaison officer between the two countries is FBI profiler and Johanne's nemesis Walter Scifford. He asks first for Johanne to assist him but has to settle for Adam. Meanwhile as the investigation proceeds, the point of view switches between Johanne, Adam, the President, an old friend of the President, and her enemy - the man orchestrating her disappearance.

I thoroughly enjoyed DEATH IN OSLO. The switching point of view and relatively short chapters keeps the momentum going. Much like with Stella Rimington's books, I like the feeling of having an insider's perspective - Anne Holt was Minister of Justice for a while - so I expected the Norwegian government scenes to be accurate. It's also interesting to see how America is perceived by Norway and vice-versa. DEATH IN OSLO is structured like a thriller and for it to work convincingly you do have to take a deep breath and ignore the massive coincidence that occurs halfway through the book which allows Johanne to get involved. That aside, the plot is as painstakingly constructed as the perpetrator's plot to kidnap the President and his ensuing plan is.

Johanne Vik is one of my least favourite lead characters (see PUNISHMENT, THE FINAL MURDER) but in this one she's much less annoying and though she makes one plot-driven boneheaded decision, she starts to act sensibly after that. What is also pleasing for readers of this series is that the Johanne/Walter mystery which has been mentioned in earlier books is finally resolved, though I would have preferred slightly more details about the original conflict.

My enjoyment of this series increases with every book and I hope the fourth book, now out in Norwegian, will reach us in English soon. Also the intriguing character of Hanne Wilhelmsen has a fairly large role in this book and it would be lovely if the other books featuring her were to be translated into English at some point.

Karen Meek, England
January 2010

Karen blogs at Euro Crime.

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 2/01/2010 18:47