Chief Inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen rings in the most wonderful time of the year by investigating a murderous assault on the clan connected with an Oslo shipping company.
Think your family holiday gatherings are fraught? That’s because you’ve never spent Christmas with Hermann Stahlberg, founder of Norne Norway Shipping. And now you’ve missed your chance, because someone entered the patriarch’s home a few days before Christmas and shot Hermann, his wife, Turid, and their elder son, Preben. Knut Sidensvans, an electrician-turned–publishing consultant, has also joined the festivities and ended up equally dead just outside the door. Who could possibly be behind such wholesale slaughter? Fortunately for Hanne and her partner, Billy T., the remaining Stahlbergs are every one of them ripe suspects. Hermann’s daughter, Hermine, evidently purchased a gun just a month ago. His younger son, Carl-Christian, has been fighting to claw back control of the family firm from his brother. Carl-Christian’s wife, Mabelle, nee May Anita Olsen, is a world-class conniver with more ideas than scruples. Even Preben’s widow, Jennifer Calvin Stahlberg, an Australian who doesn’t speak a word of Norwegian, takes a lively interest in the fate of Norne Norway. Hanne’s inquiries, in fact, reveal a family so deeply dysfunctional, so obsessed with hiding old secrets and hatching new ones, that it’s no surprise when family members turn from accusing each other to confessing to murder themselves. The surprise is that Hanne doesn’t believe them, and her skepticism is absolutely appropriate.
The detection is labored, but the family of suspects is memorably monstrous, and Holt (No Echo, 2016, etc.) even finds time for a welcome and touching Christmas miracle. Ho, ho, ho.