Inspector Harry Hole’s 12th case is his most grueling to date. And considering his history on and off the Oslo Police (The Thirst, 2017, etc.), that’s quite a claim.
Back on the bottle since his wife, human rights executive Rakel Fauke, threw him out, Harry wakes up one morning with no idea how he’s spent the last two days. Even before he can sober up, he’s hit by a tornado: Rakel has been murdered, and Harry’s colleagues want him to stay out of the case, first because he’s the victim’s husband, then because they can’t rule him out as her killer. The preliminary evidence points to Svein Finne, whose long career of raping women and later stabbing them to death unless he’s gotten them pregnant, hasn’t been slowed down just because he’s spent 20 years in prison and is now pushing 80. The elusive Finne, the very first killer Harry ever arrested, is driven by the need to avenge his own son’s death: “For each son I lose, I shall bring f-five more into the world.” Captured after Harry unforgivably uses his latest rape victim as bait, Finne blandly confesses to Rakel’s murder, but the unshakable alibi he produces sends the inquiry back to square one. A series of painstaking investigations identifies first one plausible suspect, then another, each one of whom might have been designed specifically to immerse Harry more deeply in his grief. And even after each of these suspects, beginning with Finne, is cleared of complicity in Rakel’s death, they continue to hover malignantly over the landscape, ready to swoop down and wreak still further havoc. Long before the final curtain, most readers will have joined Harry, shut out of the official investigation and marginalized in ever more harrowing ways, in abandoning all hope that he can either close the case or enjoy a moment of peace again.
The darkest hour yet for a detective who pleads, “The only thing I can do is investigate murders. And drink”—and a remarkable example of how to grow a franchise over the hero’s most vociferous objections.