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by Anne Holt and Anne Bruce, trans.
Scribner, June 2017
326 pages
ISBN: 1451634730

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In her ninth and penultimate Hanne Wilhelmsen novel, Anne Holt has devised an ingenious terrorist plot. The offices of Norway's most accommodating Muslim organization is blown up by a group calling itself The Prophet's True Ummah.

Hanne, after being shot and finding herself in a wheelchair nine years ago, has cut herself off from everyone but her partner and nine-year-old daughter in her Oslo high rise, but she follows what is happening in the world through all forms of media. When she receives a phone call from her old friend and partner Billy T, begging for help with his son, Linus, Hanne is reluctant to get involved. She has already opened her door an inch or two to accept the position of cold case researcher with the Oslo Police, but is not inclined to get back into the real game.

A second attack happens in a popular restaurant soon after, sending the Oslo police and its new chief, Silje Sorensen, into overdrive. In a month Norway will be celebrating its 200th anniversary as a state with the largest gathering in Norwegian history in Oslo's city center, and it does not take much to see this event as the perfect time and place for a massive terrorist attack.

Meanwhile Hanne begins to work with Henrik Holmes, a very odd looking Oslo policeman with symptoms of ADHD, OCD and autism, on the cold case of a teenager who disappeared nineteen years ago. Her boyfriend was beaten and severely brain-damaged the same day the girl disappeared. He is now in his thirties and keeps pigeons.

Back at police headquarters, the investigators discover that The Prophet's True Ummah is not on the internet, not even the dark web. And the behaviour of Billy T's son Linus continues to be troubling, although he swears he hates Muslims and has not converted, even though he has a Koran in his room. He claims it's for school. Linus has dropped his internet connection and begun to act completely out of character.

When the links between Hanne's cold case and the terrorists' activities begin to appear, the pace picks up and it becomes a race against time to find the perpetrators of the first two attacks before they can cause an Armageddon on May 17, 2014.

The plot device of setting the novel in the present while eliminating the contemporary technologies allows for some good old-fashioned sleuthing, often on foot, including breaking and entering to find evidence. Billy T never followed the rules anyway so between him and Henrik, the clues slowly begin to create a picture.

The atmosphere in Oslo is dark, the city and country still haunted by Anders Behring Breivik's July 22, 2011 double terrorist attack which killed 77 and wounded 110. It was the largest assassin's attack since World War II and it clearly haunts Holt's novel. After the two bombings in ODD NUMBERS, the fear in Oslo is palpable. In this dark atmosphere, the characters, both the good and the bad, are disturbing and troubled. Anne Holt is a master mistress of suspense. Her skills at clever detection are matchless; I would not like to see her as an enemy operative, but she is unsurpassable as a crime novelist. I will certainly be reading her earlier Hanne Wilhelmsen novels.

Susan Hoover is a playwright, independent producer and retired college English teacher. She lives in Nova Scotia.

Reviewed by Susan Hoover, June 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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