Blessed Are Those Who Thirst

Anne Holt

The 2nd in the award-winning series featuring Detective Hanne Wilhemsen.

 

It is only the beginning of May but in Oslo a brutal heat wave has coincided with an alarming increase in violent crime. In the latest instance, police investigator Hanne Wilhelmsen is sent to a macabre crime scene on the outskirts of town. An abandoned shed is covered in blood. On one wall an eight-digit number is written in blood. There is no body—nor any sign of a victim. Is it a kid’s prank or foul play? Is it even human blood?

 

As more bloody numbers are found in isolated locations throughout Oslo, Hanne’s colleague Håkon Sand makes a startling discovery: the digits correspond to the filing numbers of foreign immigrants. All are female, all are missing. Is there a serial killer on the loose in Oslo? How does the killer have access to immigrant data?

 

Meanwhile, as the trail heats up, the victim of a horrific unsolved rape case and her father have each decided to take justice into their own hands. Hanne and Håkon soon discover that they aren’t the only ones on the hunt for the killer.

 

 

I went through a stage last year of becoming bored with Nordic crime fiction. At one point four out of five Nordic books disappointed me with their sameness piling misery on misery. I wondered if the “Golden Age” had passed.

I had forgotten that several of the greats of the Nordic crime scene had many of their books still untranslated into English. The Blind Goddess, the first in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series, was one of my favourite reads of 2012, and the second in that series Blessed Are Those Who Thirst [translated by Anne Bruce] did not disappoint, and must in my opinion be a strong contender for the International Dagger.

The novel, originally published in Norwegian in 1994, is the story of two investigations carried out by an overworked Detective Inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen during a warm Oslo spring. The title is taken from Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled. I rather like stories that differentiate between justice, righteousness and the law.

Hanne is sent to an abandoned shed where large quantities of blood cover the walls, but there is no body. On one wall an eight digit number is written in blood. This is the first of several such occurrences until Police Attorney Hakon Sand realises the significance of the numbers…

Hanne also has to deal with the brutal rape of a young woman, Kristine Haverstad and track down the perpetrator. The reader knows more than the police and that Hanne is in a race with Kristine‘s father, Finn, a widower and 6’3″ dentist who is also searching for the man who has raped his daughter.

Blessed Are Those Who Thirst is only 211 pages long, but covers a lot of ground; the police investigations, Kristine’s trauma, Finn Haverstad’s private investigation, the motives of the warped perpetrator, and also succeeds in developing the characters we first met in The Blind Goddess.

Personal relationships play a big part of this story, Finn’s love for his daughter, Hakon’s affair with corporate lawyer Karen Borg, Hakon’s friendship with Hanne, and Hanne’s dilemma whether to “come out” to her work colleagues about her longterm relationship with her lover, Cecilie.

 

“Yes. It’s about time you got to see what I’m up to when I wander off outdoors during the night. This bloodbath is probably no worse than your own operating rooms.” Cecilie did not believe her. She began to read again but was clearly preoccupied with what Hanne was about to say.“I mean it my friend. Put on your clothes. We’re going to inspect a crime scene. Hurry up.”

 

Anne Holt has the knack of getting inside the heads of her characters, changing perspectives with ease, and getting the reader to identify with the people in the story. Kristine becomes more than a victim, she becomes a real person during the horrifying rape. We can sympathise with her father, and fume silently with Hanne as her boss Chief Inspector Kaldbakken comes up with the appalling expression “self-inflicted rapes…”.

The reader is also drawn into the immigration debate over asylum seekers.

 

They were offered five hours of Norwegian lessons per week, and the remainder of their time was a sea of frustration, uncertainty and tremendous anxiety.

 

But what really makes this book special is that author Anne Holt has cleverly created such a likeable character in Hanne Wilhelmsen. I can highly recommend the series and am waiting impatiently for the next in the series to be translated.

Review by Norman Price, CRIME SCRAPS REVIEW

About Anne Holt:

Anne Holt was born in Larvik, Norway.  She grew up in Lillestrøm and Tromsø, and moved to Oslo in 1978.

She graduated with a law degree from the University of Bergen in 1986, and went on to work for The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) and then the Oslo Police Department, earning her right to practice as a lawyer in Norway. In 1990 she returned to NRK, where she worked one year as a journalist and anchor woman for the news program Dagsrevyen.

Holt started her own law practice in 1994, and served as Minister of Justice in Cabinet Jagland for a short period from November 25, 1996 to February 4, 1997.

In 1993 Holt made her debut as a novelist with the crime novel Blind gudinne, featuring the lesbian police officer Hanne Wilhelmsen. The two novels Løvens gap (1997) and Uten ekko (2000) are co-authored with former state secretary Berit Reiss-Andersen.

Holt is one of the most successful crime novelists in Norway. She has been published in 25 countries.