How nice it is to read BLIND GODDESS by Anne Holt. American audiences have been favored with an erratic and somewhat out-of-sequence trickle of the Hanne Wilhelmsen series for a myriad number of reasons. This is the very first installment in the series, originally published in the author’s native Norway in 1993. It is somewhat disconcerting --- for me, at least --- to realize that 1993 was almost 20 years ago, a time when most of the population did not have an email address, cellular phones were an exception rather than a rule, and few people knew what “CSI” meant. Thus, BLIND GODDESS may seem a bit dated to some readers. However, the quality of the story and its characters shines through, thanks to Holt’s talent and the sturdy interpretation provided by Tom Geddes.
"BLIND GODDESS is an absolute must-read for those who were enthralled with 1222, and an excellent starting point for those who want to start reading the Hanne Wilhelmsen series from the beginning."
BLIND GODDESS is a bit of a surprise if your exposure to and knowledge of Wilhelmsen is limited to 1222, which was published in the United States in 2011 and the most recent book in the series overall. Much has occurred in the interval between these two novels; suffice to say that this opening volume is somewhat more urban in setting. For another, it’s more focused on courtroom proceedings and the Norwegian system of justice and politics. Its initial focus is upon attorney Karen Borg. As we gradually come to learn, it has been Borg’s misfortune to discover the body of a low-level drug dealer who has been battered to death. The police almost immediately arrest a young Dutchman who is found covered in blood and wandering around central Oslo. The suspect refuses to talk, insisting not only upon legal representation but also demanding that Borg represent him. Borg is a civil attorney, not a criminal one, but there is a method to the suspect’s madness, which soon becomes all too clear.
A couple of days later, a lawyer with an unsavory reputation is found shot to death. Wilhelmsen and fellow officer Hakon Sand establish a link between the two killings, one that slowly but inexorably leads them to the discovery of a massive network of graft and corruption that reaches into the highest levels of Norwegian government, and perhaps beyond. This revelation puts both Wilhelmsen and Sand in mortal danger, given that their investigation cannot continue nor can their findings be revealed, if they meet with a bad end. Both soon find that they can only rely on each other as they race to find a brutal killer before they become victims themselves.
The Norwegian judicial system is similar to that of the United States in many ways, so that it's mildly though not unpleasantly jarring when differences between the systems are occasionally encountered here. It is important to read this book with the understanding that it was written with Norwegian audiences in mind, thus occasional cultural and legal procedural differences are going to be encountered. American readers by and large will find that these are more interesting than obstructive with respect to enjoying the narrative. It is the passage of time and the resultant advances in technology over the past 20 years or so that are much more disconcerting. What was state of the art when the book was written isn’t any longer.
That small point notwithstanding, BLIND GODDESS is an absolute must-read for those who were enthralled with 1222, and an excellent starting point for those who want to start reading the Hanne Wilhelmsen series from the beginning.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 17, 2012