The Inner Darkness (Cold Case Quartet #3, William Wisting #14), by Jørn Lier Horst

Eight stars

With the release of the latest English translation in Jørn Lier Horst’s crime series, I leapt to get my hands on it, hoping for a mystery that would pull me in. I was not disappointed with this well-paced Scandinavian noir crime thriller. The day has come for convicted killer Tom Kerr to help the police. Kerr has agreed to lead the police to the scene of where he dumped one of his as yet undiscovered victims. On hand is William Wisting, head of the Norway’s National Criminal Investigation Service, Kripos, as well as many other officers. Wisting’s daughter, Line, is filming the event, a proud journalist looking for footage to use in a future documentary. While out in the rural forest, Kerr triggers a trip-wire and a number of police are injured, some seriously. Kerr is able to remove his shackles and flees deeper into the woods. It’s apparent that someone helped him orchestrate this escape, as all officers scour the area to locate and recapture Kerr. Some, like Wisting, cannot help but use this experience to substantiate their claims that Kerr always had help during his crimes, an unknown individual given the moniker, the Other One. Without knowing who this could be, everyone is left to wonder if the duo will reunite and continue their killing spree. When a young woman goes missing, there’s little doubt that the similarities from Kerr’s past victims are telling a story here. Wisting is pulled into an internal investigation for his mishandling of the entire Kerr event and his neck is surely on the line. Wisting refuses to give up, knowing that he will have to troll deeply to find out where Kerr may have gone and how the Other One might have helped develop a serial killer, as well as making sure the torch continues to burn brightly. Jørn Lier Horst has done a wonderful job with this latest novel, which will keep the reader hooked until the final pages. Recommended for those who love Scandinavian noir crime thrillers, as well as the reader with a penchant for the work of Jørn Lier Horst.

The complexities of a Scandinavian thriller make for some amazing reading, as I have said many times before. Those who love the crime genre, but are seeking something a little different than the superficial US or UK thrillers that are churned out regularly, ought to take a dive into those based in Scandinavia. I have found so many that give me chills and prove to be of a higher quality. William Wisting is such a wonderful character and I cannot get enough. While he has long since given up offering any backstory, his grit and determination makes him someone worth following as he seeks to get to the heart of the crime. Wisting uses his skills and knowledge of the criminal mind to inch closer and uncover clues that are lost to most everyone else. Those in supporting character roles also offer wonderful support in a series that is so full of twists. Horst offers a handful of returning folks whose presence helps accentuate the work that Wisting does, while also giving their own backstory a slight flavouring. The story itself was unique without being too out there. Horst works the angle from the side of the police and exemplifies the intricacies of Norwegian police procedure to pull the reader into the middle of the story without letting go. Short chapters help propel the story forward and the reader cannot help but read more in order to get to the end and final out how it all comes together. As with many Scandinavian thrillers, the translation into English does not disrupt the flow whatsoever. In fact, the English version is of a higher quality than many of the books I read where that is the language of original publication. As I have asked before (and surely other series fans will echo my query), when will the first five or so novels in this series see an English translation? If they are anything like the wonderful novels that I have been able to read, they need to be released. Those who are curious about trying something Scandinavian, I cannot recommend doing so enough. You won’t regret it, at least if you happen to choose some of the series I have found!

Kudos, Mr. Horst, for another winner. If memory serves, one more left in this cold case sub-series. William Wisting remains masterful and I cannot say enough about the books!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Death Deserved, by Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger

Eight stars

When I learned that Jørn Lier Horst was writing a new series, I have to get my hands on it. Collaborating with Thomas Enger (about whom I know nothing), I was hoping for something as exciting coming from this Norwegian duo. Alex Blix is a Violent Crimes detective working in Oslo, having risen through the ranks over the years. When he is called to the scene of a missing woman, it turns out that she is a well-known sports personality. Blix encounters an eager journalist, Emma Ramm, who wants a scoop for her publication. Blix is hesitant to leak her much of anything, not wanting to anger the higher-ups or jeopardise the case. While working the case, Blix is saddled with a new hire, hoping that she will be independent and allow him to continue making progress on the case. Soon, another sports personality hits the headlines, this one a murdered footballer who was found on the property of the missing woman. Blix and Ramm begin to join forces and find that there have been other killings, all of which fit a crazy pattern. Able to loosely predict who might be next, Blix and Ramm seek to stay one step ahead of the game. All the while, Blix’s daughter is a contestant on a reality show in Norway that has everyone buzzing. Will she win and how will this notoriety reflect on her father? With a serial killer on the loose, Alex Blix has no time to waste, while Emma Ramm seeks to find the perfect headline to coax them out of the shadows. A wonderfully chilling thriller that shows yet again that writing quality can cross the language barrier, given the proper handling. Recommended to those who enjoy Horst’s other work, as well as the reader who finds solace in Scandinavian thrillers.

I am not sure that I can say why, but I thoroughly enjoy reading books set in Scandinavia, particularly by authors from the region. They are usually of such high quality and their translation into English is never something that ruins the flow. Jørn Lier Horst Is one of the best I have encountered, though I know other readers have a list they could offer me. Alex Blix proves to be a wonderful protagonist who holds onto a dark past, which comes out in the preface. His attention to detail and desire to solve crimes is apparent throughout, though he has a number of stumbling blocks, not least of which being his independent streak. The authors develop him nicely here and I am eager to see how he will grow as the series continues. Emma Ramm does not receive as much attention in this piece, but her position is surely one the authors can add to, given the opportunity. The Blix-Ramm pairing will work well, playing both sides of the coin to develop a strong story. The narrative itself flowed very well, mixing brief chapters with longer ones and peppering in the perfect amount of dialogue. I find that reading these books, I get lost in a lot of the references, as they are local and unpronounceable to me, but the overall experience is one that I adore. Horst and Enger work well together, as the piece flows so easily as to be devoured in short order. I see a sequel has been written (though not yet released in English). I am eager to see how it will play out and cannot wait to read that book as well.

Kudos, Messrs. Horst and Enger, for a strong opening book in the series. I hope your collaborative efforts continue, but I do want more translated William Wistling (hint, Mr. Horst).

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Cabin: Cold Case Quartet Book 2 (William Wisting #13), by Jørn Lier Horst

Eight stars

Having long been a fan of Jørn Lier Horst, I wa pleased when his newest book came across my virtual desk. Horst has developed the William Wisting series and dazzled readers for many years, with an attention to detail and complex cases that boil down to a simple fact. This ‘series within a series’, in which Wisting explores some cold cases, serves to entertain readers just as much as any other book with Wisting in the protagonist role. A long and storied career with the police has helped William Wisting earn a great reputation amongst his colleagues. After being summoned to meet with the Director General of Public Prosecutions, Wisting is sent on a covert mission on the outskirts of Oslo. After the death of Bernhard Clausen, a prominent Norwegian politician, someone discovered a large cache of money on the property, neatly packed away in a few bags. Wisting must determine the origin of this money and do so before the press gets wind of anything. When Wisting arrives, he discovers a massive amount of cash in various demonization and currencies, which raises a red flag for him. As Wisting tries to learn a little more about Clausen, Wisting uncovers that a freak motorbike accident took the life of Clausen’s adult son a number of years ago. Even more interesting, one of the son’s friends died in a freak drowning around the same time. Calling upon his journalist daughter, Line, to assist, Wisting discovers that there might be more to the story than a simple drowning. He also makes a loose connection between the discovered money and a robbery, but not before someone burns the cabin to the ground. Wisting is left to wonder whether he is opening too many old wounds, especially when he feels he can connect the money to the deaths in some way. When Line and her young daughter are threatened, Wisting knows he’s onto something, but cannot justify giving it all up just yet. What secrets did Bernard Clausen possess and how might things unravel into a homicide investigation? Horst spins another wonderful story and keeps the reader wanting to know more in this second ‘cold case’ quartet. Recommended to those who have long enjoy Horst’s writing, as well as the reader who find enjoyment in Scandinavian police procedurals.

I can always rely on a great read when picking up a book by Jørn Lier Horst. His novels pack a wonderful punch and keep the reader constantly thinking while they are entertained. William Wisting has developed as a character over a number of novels, honing his skills as a police detective. Well-versed in all the types of antics criminals can take, Wisting is duped by little and appears to have a great deal of patience as he coaxes the truth out of witnesses, sometimes without their knowing. The reader will also see a softer side to Wisting as he interacts with his granddaughter and chooses to help out wherever he can. This contrast works well, especially for those who have a long history reading these novels. Other characters serve to complement Wisting and the larger story in a highly effective manner. Horst has a way of creating characters who fit in perfectly and there is no lack of this in the novel, from the high ranking political figures through to the lowly workers who have tried to hide over the past number of years. The story was strong and kept my attention throughout, even when choosing to focus on a cold case matter. I cannot help but love the Scandinavian flavour of the plot and delivery which differs greatly with the usual fare I read. The translation into English does not appear to hamper the strength of the book at all. I have often said that there is little hesitation in the narrative and it almost seems as though the book was penned in English, making the read even better. While I still hope for the first few novels to be translated into English, I am happy to see such progress in the William Wisting character and this series as a whole.

Kudos, Mr. Horst, for another great piece. Your know how to lure the reader in and won’t let go until the final sentence or two.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Katharina Code (The Cold Case Quartet #1), by Jørn Lier Horst

Nine stars

I have always had great admiration for Jørn Lier Horst and his William Wisting series. A Norwegian homicide detective, Wisting seems able to pace himself through his investigations while always extracting just what is needed at the right time to solve a case and bring the perpetrator to justice. However, there are those cases that slip through the fingers, such as the one of Katharina Haugen. Wisting has never been able to solve it, but pulls out the case files each year on the anniversary of her disappearance. Now twenty-four years on, Wisting goes through the same routine: examining case notes, photos, and trying to crack a scribbled code that she left on her table before disappearing. Part of the annual process is to visit her husband, Martin, who remains lost without his wife. However, Martin is nowhere to be found when Wisting visits this year, adding curiosity to the number of other emotions rushing through him. When a detective from Kripos, the Norwegian national police service, pays Wisting a visit, there is something interesting to share. Another mysterious cold case, the disappearance of teenager Nadia Krogh many years ago, has new life. Re-evaluating the ransom note left by her apparent captors shows fingerprints belonging to Martin Haugen. Could there be a link here? Wisting’s daughter, Line, has been itching to get back to work as a journalist, unable to make her maternity leave pass fast enough. With the Krogh case returning to prominence, Line begins a podcast related to the crime, seeking to eke out new details that could open the case wide open. With Kripos wanting to observe Martin Haugen for the time being, Wisting helps extract information from the man he has come to know over the past two decades, in hopes of solving both cases. However, nothing is quite as easy as it seems and Wisting will have to find a way to lure the killer out. A masterful branch-off of Horst’s work, this ‘sub-series’ could get really interesting as series fans get to see William Wisting in a new light. A must-read for series fans and those who love a good Scandinavian police procedural as ‘noir’ as they come!

Jørn Lier Horst is one of the great Scandinavian police procedural writers I have had the pleasure to read over the years. His stories are well-paced and develop effectively for the reader, while also adding wonderfully colourful characters and strong plots. As a protagonist, William Wisting proves to be both entertaining and effective in his delivery as a superior sleuth. While not published in English (yet!), the first part of the series is said to develop in such a way that the reader can see a strong husband and equal partner in a great marriage, something that is hinted at in each book that has been translated and acts as a lingering backstory. His wife gone and children grown, Wisting works hard to put his work at the forefront of his life, compartmentalising the past that can no longer be changed. Wisting’s development comes in the form of chasing the killers that lurk in the shadows, as well as living life as a grandfather and effective parental helper to his daughter, Line. Others within the story find a way to make their mark, keeping the reader highly entertained. There is much to say about them, as they not only shape the entire series, but what is sure to be this collection of revisited cold cases. New ideas injected into old cases alongside Wisting’s strong and demanding approach can only help things move along effectively. I am looking forward to seeing what Horst has to offer and how these new faces will change the dynamic of a strong series. The story here is one that is by no means unique, but works so very well. Looking well into the past, Wisting is forced to come to terms with the limits on his detective abilities with a case that has stumped him. Even with fresh eyes, there are sometimes limits to what can be accomplished, until a spark ignites the entire investigation. With new pathways and potentially new approaches to old cases, Wisting and the rest of the group can retake control and put things to bed once and for all. I am eager to see how this quartet of cold case novels works and whether it will be the swan song for William Wisting, or breathe new life into this well-established detective. Hints of his retirement are embedded within this piece, so it will be interesting to see what comes of it after all four cold case novels have been completed. With a mix of shorter and elongated chapters, Horst pulls the reader into the story and then teases them as the pace quickens, heading towards a high-paced finale when all is revealed. I have said it before and will do so again, Horst’s work is not lessened by a translation. The fluidity of the work is still strong and seems almost to have been penned in English. There is no jolt or loss of intensity when moving from Norwegian to English, at least not that I can tell. Bring on more for the reader, as the teaser chapters at the end of the book hint at more cold cases that bring fresh sleuthing to long forgotten motives!

Kudos, Mr. Horst, for another winner. I am excited to see where you take your readers and hope you can lure new fans into this long developing series.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

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: