A savvy, sharply delineated suspense novel from Norwegian crime author Holt delves into the haunting motivation of a child-abductor.
An identical blood-chilling note left on the bodies of several dead children abducted from their middle-class Oslo homes leaves police confounded: “Now you’ve got what you deserved,” the note reads. Lawyer and psychologist at Oslo University, Johanne Vik, who wrote her thesis on why people commit sexually motivated crimes, is drawn into the case in a roundabout fashion while doing research on a 1965 child murder involving the probable wrongful imprisonment of a certain Aksel Seier, convicted for raping and killing an eight-year-old girl, although he was never proven guilty and the paperwork has since mysteriously vanished. Aksel was finally released and subsequently moved to the U.S., on Cape Cod, where Johanne plans to track him down and discuss his case to find out how “external interest,” in the form of publicity, personalities, etc., affected the outcome. However, Johanne’s academic expertise attracts the interest of dogged detective inspector Adam Stubo, a stocky widower keen on the use of intuition, who strong-arms Johanne, a divorced mother of a mentally challenged five-year-old, into lending the police help in creating a profile of the present child-killer. One of the children abducted, Emilie Selbu, has in fact not turned up dead, and in alternate chapters bearing various POVs, Holt describes the girl’s horrific plight at the hands of her control-obsessed, nameless jailer. Johanne makes her journey to America, and visits the reclusive, diffident Aksel, who is not used to speaking his native tongue or hearing that someone sympathizes with his wrongful conviction. By novel’s end, what at first appears to be incongruous information comes together elegantly.
Based on a true Norwegian murder case, Holt’s work is cerebral, complicated and immensely rewarding.