Posted by: Corri van de Stege | December 10, 2011

Nordic Noir – Ann Holt and Punishment

Ann Holt is a Norwegian and very successful writer of crime fiction – her crime fiction is apparently published in 25 countries now.  In Punishment, she captures a very dark side of Norway.
A little girl, Emilie, disappears – most likely abducted.  Then a little boy and another girl, between 7 and 9 years old and apparently unrelated disappear.  The bodies of the boy and the girl are delivered as gruesome parcels to their parents.  The cause of their death cannot be established.  They seemingly just died.  There’s no sign of Emilie.

Meanwhile Johanne Vik, a lawyer and psychologist who works at the University in Oslo, is asked by an old dying lady to follow up the case of Aksel Seier.  She is convinced that he was wrongly accused of and imprisoned for the rape and murder of eight-year old Hedvig, back in 1954.  Eight years after his imprisonment for the crime, Aksel Seier was released, without being given a reason and he eventually moved to America.

Very quickly we learn that a man called Karsten Asli is keeping little Emilie imprisoned in his basement cellar, specifically built for the purpose.  He also is the killer of the other two children.  Why is he doing this?  As readers we want the police to find out, quickly, who he is and what he is up to.

The relationship between Johanne Vik and detective inspector Adam Stubo, who has asked her to profile the killer of the children, develops as another strand in the story and it is only at the very end of the book that the different stories come together in a surprising twist.  Throughout reading the book I was just as confused as Johanne was, simply getting on with her life, her worries about her daughter and not letting down the old lady.

Then, suddenly, everything falls into place, there is that Eureka moment, the epiphany Johanna experienced for the first time as a teenager coming to grips with the rule of maths – the equations that suddenly worked.

I enjoyed reading this book on my Kindle, it’s well written and it is  part of that Nordic Noir genre that as well as giving you a nail-biting crime story also delivers commentary on the social interactions, the society that underneath the clean and child friendly image also hides a threat – the darker side of Norway.

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