The Wisting series of Scandi crime stories have become as comfortable as a snuggly sofa next to a roaring fire on a chilly winter afternoon. Although the cover blurb does its best to sell this carefully constructed mystery as a ‘pulse-pounding thriller’ it has far more in common with Wallander or Varg Veum than Harry Hole or Department Q. In British terms, think Midsomer Murders. Not The Sweeney…
If you’ve read Jørn Lier Horst’s earlier mysteries or seen episodes of the Wisting TV series then you’ll know exactly what to expect. Thoughtful crime fiction which revolves around the relationship between Norwegian police detective Wisting and his adult daughter, Line. He’s experienced, measured and deliberate, a by-the-book investigator and a far cry from crime fiction’s typical tortured souls with their addictions and outlandish habits. She’s the fiery female journalist, forever chafing against her father’s authority while trying to win his approval for her own investigative instincts. Invariably, she puts herself in harm’s way – and her potential jeopardy is what propels the story forwards…
And it’s an entirely intriguing story, in fact, one which could’ve stood entirely on its own. A convicted felon, a multiple murderer, finally offers to reveal the grave site of one of his undiscovered victims. Wisting has his doubts, and is presented with the poisoned chalice of being the officer in charge of the escapade – which rapidly turns into an escape. A cold-blooded killer is unleashed, and it seems that his original accomplice is waiting in the wings. A massive manhunt follows to track the two murderers before they can flee across international borders – or commit another gruesome crime.
Locating these killers requires more than barking dogs and searching the woods while wearing dayglo jackets, however. Wisting and Line, in parallel and separate investigations, examine the old, cold cases, searching for the identity of the unknown accomplice. This is a carefully constructed and satisfying mystery, replete with red herrings (possibly pickled, as this is Scandinavia after all), dead ends and misleading evidence.
Despite the book’s title and cover design, which suggest melancholic soul-searching at midnight, The Inner Darkness steers clear of deep philosophical waters. It’s a precisely plotted police procedural; cleanly translated and easy to read. Although I’m a little weary of the father / daughter plot device, the narrative is deftly delivered and there’s little about Wisting to dislike. I’m hardly desperate for the next one, but this series provides solidly enjoyable entertainment.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
The Inner Darkness by Jørn Lier Horst is available at Amazon
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