Norwegian detective William Wisting has taken over where Wallander left off – which delights me, because I’ve always found Jorn Lier Horst’s world rather more rewarding to visit. This is a long-running series but if you’ve just come to the books – perhaps because you’ve seen the TV version – then this story is skilfully self-contained so it can be enjoyed as a standalone.
The opening chapters are definitely presented to grab your attention: well, it’s hard to ignore a severed head on a pole. But don’t be misled by the publisher’s shock! horror! blurb. The Night Man is not your typical ‘psycho serial killer runs amok’ slasherfest so don’t come here looking for increasingly bizarre murders. Instead it’s a painstakingly plotted investigation into modern slavery and the international narcotics trade, which JLH adeptly approaches from two entirely different directions.
That’s another thing I enjoy about spending time with seasoned detective Wisting; his relationship with headstrong Line, his journalist daughter. You’d think from those brief descriptions that this pair spend their time butting heads in ongoing conflicts between a by-the-book police professional and a headline-grabbing hack. Far from it: their interactions are mature and considered, respectfully working towards a common goal albeit with different methods that suit their generations. It’s pleasantly refreshing.
Nor is the investigation mired in gloom, doom, woe and despondency. William and Line both acknowledge the loss of his wife / her mother, but they are independent adults who’ve moved on… even to the extent of developing new romantic entanglements which have significance to both sides of the story.
And this narrative is as much a social and political commentary as it is a police procedural. It comments at some length Norway’s policies on asylum seekers at home and peacekeeping military actions abroad. The delivery of a large lump of facts and figures does distract from the plot somewhat, and I suspect some folk will skip those bits. Depends how much education you enjoy with your entertainment.
The plot also stretches credibility a touch when Wisting goes off on an exotic adventure and ends up in the firing line. It feels like a ‘made for TV’ segment which was certainly surplus to the plot requirements: a Zoom call wouldn’t have been quite so dramatic, mind.
Overall, a thorough engaging read and a solid addition to the series.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
The Night Man by Jorn Lier Horst is available at Amazon
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