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The Katharina Code by Jørn Lier Horst. Translated by Anne Bruce. Book Review

August 22, 2018

Katharina Code

After she went missing over twenty years ago, Katharina Haugen left behind a mysterious string of numbers scribbled on a piece of paper. Her unsolved disappearance is something that has bothered Chief Inspector William Wisting all this time. It is why he takes out the files of the case every year on the anniversary of her disappearance to re-examine them and continues to visit her husband Martin Haugen.

Then Swedish Detective Adrian Stiller from the National Crime Investigation Service in Oslo arrives to investigate possible links between an old kidnapping case and Katharina’s husband. Is Haugen the grief-stricken husband he appears to be or someone with the dark and dangerous past?

The Katharina Code starts off as a slow read in the tradition of P D James and then builds up speed as the facts begin to assemble and take shape. This makes a refreshing change of pace from many modern crime novels which deliver the story quickly and with a constant sense of immediacy. In The Katharina Code you are allowed to linger and get to know Wisting and his family well. He is a widower with a daughter, who is a single mother, and a son who is in the air force. They are a loving family, who work well together looking after each other.

There is a great deal of description and inner dialogue, with the prose delivered in a reported style, which I suspect is not because of the way this novel has been translated, but due more to Jørn Lier Horst’s writing style. It is as if the facts are being reported in the way a police detective might methodically note them down and this creates a great sense of immersion in the case as it moves along.

The narrative doesn’t ever feel as if it is dragging, because this is the sort of book which makes a thoughtful progression through the cold case and is the type of story where you need a notebook at hand for scribbling down clues.

This way of writing also provides time for a complex interplay between Wisting, Stiller, and Wisting’s journalist daughter, Line, who Stiller engineers to cover the disappearance of Nadia Krogh after her kidnapping some years before.

I look forward to the next instalment of this series and immersing myself in Wisting’s world once again.

The Katharina Code was courtesy of Michael Joseph via NetGalley.

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