When It Grows Dark (William Wisting #11), by Jorn Lier Horst

Eight stars

Jorn Lier Horst returns with another William Wisting novel that takes the reader into rural Norway and a calmer form of Scandinavian crime thriller. After over three decades as a reputable police officer, Chief Inspector William Wisting is set to address some new recruits at the police academy. He is handed a letter, one that takes him back three decades and sparks a memory of a case that got away. The story then travels back to 1983, where Wisting is a beat cop with a young wife and twin newborns. Working the night shift, Wisting discovers many interesting, though rarely overly exciting, cases in the small community outside of Oslo. When called to the scene of a night safe robbery at one of the local banks, Wisting and his partner follow a lead, in hopes of finding the burglars. However, all that is left is a car that has been set alight and a cottage with some errant items. The burning vehicle is close to a large farmhouse that Wisting and his friend had been scouting out before, having located an abandoned vehicle from 1925. Wisting has taken a fancy to this car and tries to locate not only the barn owner, but also who might have left the car there. Closer exploration by Wisting shows two bullet holes in the door and a newspaper from 1925. This spurs the young police officer to poke around on his own time. Discovering the owner of the vehicle opens the door to a new mystery, one in which a large sum of money and the car’s driver disappeared during a secret mission bound for Oslo. The deeper Wisting gets with this case, the more interested he is in solving it. However, with the bank robbery unsolved and many cases piling up, something from six decades before must take its place on the back burner. Wisting lays the groundwork for his incredible detective future, balancing his love of policing with a young family back home. Horst fans will likely enjoy this flashback novel that seeks to show where William Wisting got his start and how that curiosity germinated over three decades of uncovering various crimes and mysteries.

I cannot remember what got me interested in Horst or his Wisting series, but I know that I was hooked from the get-go. The series reads so easily and Horst seeks to develop a great story without the need to pad it with excessive plot lines. Fans of the series will know that Horst only started English-language translation of his series after the fifth novel, starting with an established Wisting who had adult twins and a dead wife. From here, he has been able to amble forwards, though there is so much backstory that only Norwegian (and perhaps other) readers have been privy to exploring. This flashback not only gives the reader a glimpse into the early Wisting, but is the first chance to meet Ingrid, who appears to have shaped his life quite significantly. Line, the female twin, cannot play her investigative journalist role in this story, but her attentive nature is documented throughout the piece, as Horst gives the wee one quite the role when interacting with young Wisting. The story is interesting, as it seeks to explore a case of the day (1983), as well as one that had long gone cold by then (1925), both of which capture the reader and Wisting quite easily. Paths to explore both cases are laid out effectively by Horst and each chapter brings the reader a little closer, but there is the knowledge that something remains unsolved, as hinted at in the preface. It is also worth noting how smoothly the narrative flows, even after being translated from its original Norwegian. That is the test of a truly strong story, that it is not lost when forced through a set of linguistic gymnastics to appeal to a larger readership. Horst has left the door open for many more books, should he wish to look back with Wisting, even without opening the early series books to his English readers.

Kudos, Herr Horst, for this wonderful novel. I loved the look back and really hope you will work with English publishers soon to allow us Anglo fans to explore the series’ first five books

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons