Blind Goddess by Anne Holt
Publication Date: 2012
The Short Version:
In the first of the Hanne Wilhelmsen series the Norwegian detective takes on a case of two seemingly unrelated murders that lead to a web of corruption and a complex drug trade organization.
Why I Read It:
I read the eighth book in this series last year because it was the first to be translated and released in the US. I knew I’d be reading more and was happy to see that the next one released here was the first in the series.
From the publisher:
A small-time drug dealer is found battered to death on the outskirts of the Norwegian capital, Oslo. A young Dutchman, walking aimlessly in central Oslo covered in blood, is taken into custody but refuses to talk. When he is informed that the woman who discovered the body, Karen Borg, is a lawyer, he demands her as his defender, although her specialty is civil, not criminal, law. A couple of days later, Hanse Olsen, a lawyer of the shadiest kind, is found shot to death. Soon police officers Håkon Sand and Hanne Wilhelmsen establish a link between the two killings. They also find a coded message hidden in the murdered lawyer’s apartment. Their maverick colleague in the drugs squad, Billy T., reports that a recent rumor in the drug underworld involves drug-dealing lawyers. Now the reason why the young Dutchman insisted on having Karen Borg as a defender slowly dawns on them: since she was the one to find and report the body, she is the only Oslo lawyer that cannot be implicated in the crime. As the officers investigate, they uncover a massive network of corruption leading to the highest levels of government. As their lives are threatened, Hanne and her colleagues must find the killer and, in the process, bring the lies and deception out into the open.
Having read a later book in the series it was great for me to go back the beginning and read the first in the series. I hope that the remaining books are translated and released her in order.
Hanne Wilhelmsen is a crusty yet likeable detective. Hakon Sand is the prosecutor but the two of them have a good working relationship. It’s a character driven story and a good solid police procedural. I enjoyed that the pieces of the puzzle gradually fell into place and that initially unrelated things became intertwined.
It’s part police procedural and part political intrigue type thriller. Interspersed between the sections about the investigation are sections with the unnamed perpetrators giving the reader a viewpoint broader than that of the detectives and prosecution.
The investigation plays out over a fairly lengthy period of time and the Hanne and Hakon’s frustration grows with each dead end or death of someone connected with the case. These two and the lawyer Karen Borg are all interesting and complicated characters. Hakon Sand has feelings for the married Borg who is troubled enough all on her own. Wilhelmsen is a tough no nonsense character who I like despite her crustiness (in part because I’d already experienced the character at a later point in her career when I read 1222). She is greatly humanized by her relationship with her significan other. A relationship she keeps extremely private.
Holt knows her stuff. She spent two years working for the Oslo Police Department, had her own law firm and also served as Norway’s Minister for Justice. That experience and expertise allow her to give a sense of realism to her characters and the story.
I will most definitely be watching for the next book in this series to be released in the US. It’s due out in December. In the meantime I recommend this first one for fans of Nordic crime fiction or just good crime fiction in general.