A flamboyantly gruesome murder spree challenges Norwegian special-crimes investigator Adam Stubo and his wife, profiler Johanne Vik.
It must be open season on celebrities. A chat-show host’s tongue is bisected. A Koran is crammed up a politician’s nether region. A literary critic’s eye is savaged with a pen. Is a serial killer at work? At first glance, the apparently blameless victims have nothing in common. There are no forensic clues. Stubo is so stumped that he hounds new mom Johanne until she agrees to help, eventually recalling a series of cases she studied at Quantico, a fraught period she’s loathe to revisit or discuss. The serial-killer theory is impeached by a confession to one of the murders but reinstated when another famous figure is slaughtered, a biathlete pinged with his own shooting tool. Worse yet, if Johanne’s memory of the Quantico cases is correct, the next target will be a police officer, putting her family in the killer’s sights. A longing for the limelight emboldens the killer, who taunts Stubo and Johanne but leaves them no way to prove who’s doing the taunting.
Norwegian author Holt (What Is Mine, 2006) can deftly lead the reader to wrong conclusions and ratchet up the tension almost unbearably, but there’s a sadly synthetic quality to Stubo and Johanne’s nemesis, who’s lining up to be their foe next time out as well.