Review 1784: Death in Oslo

I began reading this Norwegian series after watching the Swedish TV show Modus that is based on it. I mentioned that connection before, but while reading this novel, I thought about it a lot.

Helen Bentley, the American president, disappears from her hotel room during a state visit to Norway. Adam Stubo isn’t involved in the case at first, but then FBI agent Warren Seifford requests Adam as a liaison. When Adam’s wife, Johanne Vik, hears this, she demands that he refuse to work with Warren even though she won’t explain why. Then she leaves home with her baby when Adam reports to work.

Perhaps it’s because I watched the Modus version of this book first, which made significant changes, but I found it much less plausible than I have Holt’s other books in the series. I have already noticed, though, that her character Johanne Vik tends to be a little hysterical at times, unlike the calm counterpart in the TV series.

First, I felt that Holt had little grasp of the way politics between the Norwegians and the Americans would play out. Most of the time, she just shows them spinning their wheels in power plays. She, or perhaps the translator, also gets things wrong about American speech. The mistake I can think of offhand has an American on the news call gas “petrol.” Americans don’t use that word. I would think the book was simply translated for a British audience except the word was used in a supposedly verbatim news report from the States. I also noticed a similar error when Warren’s thoughts are revealed.

The TV program has the President stashed in the closet of an abandoned building, but in the novel she is in an apartment basement and just happens to be found by the servant of the woman Johanne Vik goes to stay with. That coincidence is bad enough, but that they don’t immediately call the police is wholly unbelievable.

Finally, there’s the big climax. I don’t want to give too much away, but I have to say that since the person the president thinks is guilty isn’t, what happened to the danger that she was supposedly in? They handled this much better in Modus by having there be actual danger.

So, a bit disappointed here. I’m ahead of the series on the next book, so we’ll see if that makes a difference.

Punishment

The Final Murder

The Water’s Edge

Review 1750: The Final Murder

Anne Holt’s Stubo and Vik series books are so far suspenseful, and her characters are convincing. I enjoyed The Final Murder but found it a bit far-fetched.

Johanne Vik and Adam Stubo are a couple five years after the events of the last book, and Johanne has just given birth to their daughter. She hasn’t been sleeping, and she is worried that the new baby may exhibit symptoms of the undiagnosed condition of Kristiane, her first child.

A TV personality is found dead in a bizarre murder with her tongue cut out, split, and placed in an elaborate origami bowl. Despite the efforts of Adam’s team, they cannot find anyone who bore her a grudge. Then a rising young politician is found crucified. The team begins to be afraid they have a serial murderer of celebrities.

Something about the murders seems familiar to Johanne. After the third one, she realizes that it is not just about celebrities—someone is re-creating five unrelated murders that Johanne’s FBI mentor regularly talks about in his lectures. We readers periodically check in on the murderer and know that she is a woman.

To explain my problems with this mystery, I have to reveal a spoiler, so stop reading now if you don’t want to know more. The murderer is actually targeting Johanne with these murders, trying to see if she can catch her. I found the re-creation idea a little iffy, but this plot point seems more like the old-fashioned diabolical mastermind challenging the detective—sort of Holmes/Moriarty—the kind of thing that has always seemed ridiculous and unlikely to me. I also felt frustrated by the ending, which I will not reveal.

Don’t misunderstand me, though. I still enjoyed reading the book and look forward to the next one, although I find Johanne a bit neurotic.

Punishment

The Mist

The Water’s Edge

Review 1722: Punishment

Here’s another book for RIP XVI.

I thought maybe I had read an Anne Holt mystery years ago, but it appears not. In any case, I got interested in reading her Stubo/Vik series after watching Modus, a Swedish television series based on her Norwegian characters. It’s interesting, having seen the television series first, to notice the changes they’ve made.

Johanne Vik, a university researcher doing work on convicted criminals who maintain their innocence, is contacted by an old lady who has long been convinced of a miscarriage of justice. In 1988, Aksel Seier was convicted of the rape and murder of a young girl based on flimsy evidence. After he served nine years, he was mysteriously released from prison and all the case paperwork disappeared. The woman wants Johanne to find out if Seier was innocent. Although this is not the kind of work Johanne does, she becomes interested in the case and agrees to help.

At about the same time, Detective Adam Stubo sees Johanne on television and asks her to help brainstorm the case of a series of kidnapped and murdered children. At first, she refuses but is drawn in by his persistence.

All along, we follow the story of Emilie, one of the kidnapped children who has not been killed, as well as the thinking of the murderer. This lends an extra layer of suspense about whether she will be saved.

I think this is a complex and well-plotted novel with interesting characters. There are a couple of huge coincidences at the end that I’m not sure of, but I am more than willing to continue the series.

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