Holt, Anne - 'Punishment' (translated by Kari Dickson)
PUNISHMENT, published as WHAT IS MINE in the US, is the first in a new series which features academic Johanne Vik, and Detective Inspector Adam Stubo of the Oslo police.
Johanne is a psychologist with a law degree who has spent time with the FBI and is now a lecturer. She and her ex-husband have joint custody of their brain-damaged daughter. Johanne is approached by Stubo to assist in a high profile case. Children are being abducted and returned dead to their mothers with a note saying that 'now you've got what you deserved'. The first girl to be kidnapped has not yet been returned, raising the hope that she is still alive. Stubo wants Johanne to work up a profile of the kidnapper-murderer. Johanne is reluctant to help and is busy with her own mystery. She has been asked by an old lady to look into a miscarriage of justice from over 30 years ago. A man wrongly imprisoned for the murder of a child, who was quietly released part way into his sentence and who subsequently disappeared.
Eventually Stubo's pressure on Johanne makes her cave in and offer her expertise and a peculiar sort of relationship starts to develop between them.
I didn't enjoy this as much as I'd expected to based on the first few chapters. The main problem for me was that it seemed quite slow. Neither of the two investigations, the police's and Johanne's, are very meaty and are dragged out and Johanne's reluctance to help the police seems unreasonable, given what's at stake. I enjoyed the chapters from Stubo's point of view more than Johanne's as it feels like something's happening. There's not a particularly strong sense of place pertaining to Oslo, though Johanne visits a well-realised Cape Cod. Finally, the resolution to the case relies heavily on coincidence and is rather disappointing compared to the originality of what's gone before. I still plan to read the next in the series, mostly to catch up with the intuitive Stubo.
Kari Dickson provides an excellent translation into British English.
Read another review of PUNISHMENT.
Karen Meek, England