book: When It Grows Dark (2016; trans 2017 Anne Bruce) by Jorn Lier Horst

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A prequel to a series of Norwegian police procedurals that I have not read.

Thirty-three years ago, in 1983, series protagonist William Wisting is just a humble patrol cop with a young wife, infant twins and too many bills. Trying to catch a habitual car thief, he and his partner make a discovery that may help in the solution to a series of ram raids on banks’ night safes. However, before he can do more than this he’s shoved to the sidelines to let the big boys tackle the case. So Wisting instead, with the encouragement of his boss, turns his attention to the puzzle of a recently discovered abandoned vintage car. Left decades ago in a ramshackle barn, the car has now been found to have bullet holes in its chassis. How did it come to be there, and what was the crime of which the bullet holes are now the solitary trace?

Needless to say, the two cases prove to be connected, and so Wisting emerges as the hero of the day. Even so, there’s still today, in 2016, one aspect of the matter that hasn’t been fully resolved . . .

Jorn Lier Horst’s series of William Wisting police procedurals is widely recognized as being among the best of its kind, and a recent entry had the distinction of being selected for the Petrona Award, which recognizes distinction in translated Scandinavian crime fiction.

As noted, this was my first taste of the series. Unfortunately, I came away from it feeling neither one way nor the other. I’d never really been bored but at the same time I’d never become more than superficially involved in either the tale or the characters. In the ordinary way I might have suspected this sense of flatness had to do with the translation, but I’ve read and enjoyed Anne Bruce’s work before so I reckon the problem more likely lies with the original text . . . or, quite possibly, with me: although I thought I’d kicked off the last traces of the solstitial blues by the time I read the novel, perhaps I was still under their influence.

I gather the other William Wisting novels are about twice the length of this one, so When It Grows Dark offers as good a place as any to start if you want to give the series a try. The Sandstone Press paperback is a really nattily produced little book — a pleasure to handle.

5 thoughts on “book: When It Grows Dark (2016; trans 2017 Anne Bruce) by Jorn Lier Horst

  1. I had the same thing happen to me when I read a later book in a long police procedural series by Nick Oldham which was a prequel. I was not impressed and never went back to try the beginning of the series. I probably should but have too many books right now.

    I do want to try Horst’s Wisting series someday but really trying hard not to start any new series this year. At least it only has six books so far.

    • The advantage of prequel volumes, I feel, is that they tend to be a bit shorter than the standard series entries: one can have a taste without committing oneself to a great bloody doorstop!

      I do want to try Horst’s Wisting series someday but really trying hard not to start any new series this year. At least it only has six books so far.

      I think this is #11 in the series. Perhaps it’s that so far only six have been translated?

      I haven’t heard of the Oldham series. I’m not a great reader of series-as-series, although I’m happy enough to read books here and there within series.

      • You are right about the Wisting series of course, the first five have not been translated, but at least the remaining ones were translated in order. I was relying on Fantastic Fiction, which was a mistake in this case.

        Re Oldham’s Henry Christie series, I used to be heavily into police procedural series and especially those set in the UK, so I wanted to try it. Less so now, although I still like police procedurals a lot because they are more realistic (usually). And I still like series and reading them in order, but that doesn’t work as well these days with so much access to books and so many good authors. So often I end up only reading a few in a series.

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