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Holt, Anne - 'The Final Murder' (translated by Kari Dickson)
Paperback: 352 pages (Aug. 2008) Publisher: Sphere ISBN: 0751537152

This is the second book in the Norwegian series featuring NICS investigator Adam Stubo and profiler Johanne Vik, now married and with a days-old baby girl called Ranghild. A TV presenter is murdered in a nasty, ritualistic fashion (described in an up-front way, but thankfully not dwelling too much on the gruesome details). There is no apparent motive, and the police are soon frustrated. Eventually Adam sneaks the case documents home to Johanne, who is unable to sleep since the birth of her daughter. It is clear that Johanne is terrified that Ranghild will suffer the same problems as Kristiane, her elder child (by her previous husband, Isak).

Because Johanne is unable to rest, she becomes obsessed with the crime, particularly when two other celebrities, a senior politician and an "intellectual", are also killed in bizarre ways. It does not take Johanne long to discover a discrepancy in the first case, which had been missed by the police, which leads rapidly to the perpetrator being caught.

But what of the second two crimes, soon to be joined by a third murder, that of a famous sporting personality? Johanne is convinced that they are the work of one person, but proof and motive seem impossible to find. Johanne becomes increasingly certain that the deaths are connected to her own unhappy (and so far untold) time at the FBI, where she was a profiler for some years. The murders strongly resemble those described in a lecture given by her boss there, Warren, who is responsible for some ghastly emotional trauma (also so far unrevealed) in Johanne's past. Is the murderer someone who was also trained at Quantico?

Throughout the book, we have been seeing some events through the perceptions of a woman who is temporarily living in France. Soon the reader learns that this person's involvement in the story is central.

Although there are many aspects of THE FINAL MURDER that are unsatisfactory, for example the cursory and unsuccessful attempt to find Warren or anyone else from the FBI who could bring knowledge of the earlier cases, the book is very clever. It is hard to say why without giving away the solution. Suffice it to say that the reader learns more than the characters. And the book itself may or may not be the solution to the crime. Who has written the book, and does the book itself represent the crucial evidence that will allow Adam and his colleagues to apprehend the criminal? For me these elements are original and intriguing, and I admire Anne Holt for these unusual twists.

Readers will probably enjoy THE FINAL MURDER more fully if they have previously read PUNISHMENT, which introduces the main characters and puts them into context. Although the domestic details are somewhat skated-over in THE FINAL MURDER, and the police-work barely described at all, I found the book extremely readable and would certainly recommend it.

Read another review of THE FINAL MURDER.

Maxine Clarke, England
November 2008

Maxine blogs at Petrona.

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 8/10/2009 18:49