Book review: Thirst for Anne Holt


Thor A. Larsen
Fishkill, N.Y.

Anne Holt has become one of the most popular crime novelists in Norway, with over seven million books sold in about 25 languages. Another top Norwegian writer, Jo Nesbø, calls Holt “The godmother of modern Norwegian crime fiction.” She was born in 1958 and educated as a lawyer. She spent time with the Oslo Police Department, in private law practice, and briefly served as Norway’s Minister of Justice in 1996. Her first crime novel was published in 1993, and she’s published one or more crime novels every year since.

The protagonist of many of Holt’s novels is Hanne Wilhelmsen, a very bright, attractive, lesbian police detective. Hanne, working effectively with colleagues, leads the team in solving the crime, often after many unexpected twists and turns. I share others’ views that Holt’s crime stories remind us of “old detective stories.” However, Holt’s tales have distinct differences. For one thing, the key crime fighter is gay. As such, the issue of keeping her private life apart from her professional life often leads to tensions in the office and with her partner. Holt’s experience as a lawyer, journalist, and Minister of Justice has provided her with rather unique experiences, which she cleverly incorporates into her crime stories.

In Blessed are Those Who Thirst, it is only the beginning of May but in Oslo a brutal heat wave has coincided with an alarming increase in violent crime. Hanne is sent to a crime scene where she finds an eight-digit number written in blood. As more bloody numbers are found, Hanne’s colleague discovers that the digits correspond to the filing numbers of foreign immigrants. All are female; all are missing.

In this particular murder mystery, Holt focuses on several social and policing issues. First, she shines light on the lack of police focus on rape, a crime that was very rare 25 years ago but had become relatively common in Oslo by the time of the novel. The care and attention to rape victims by the police triggers a strong reaction by one victim and her father. Also, the attitude by many locals toward recent immigrants from the Middle East is an ingredient leading to a dreadful series of crimes.

Holt’s mysteries are very readable, with excellent character development, surprising twists, and drama. The reader is kept in suspense until the last page.

Born in Stavanger, Thor A. Larsen immigrated to New York City with his parents in 1948. Now retired from a 40-year career as physicist and engineer, Thor draws and paints, and writes travel and arts articles for a local publication. He’s been married to Arlene for 49 years, and they have two adult children and three grandsons.

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 12, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.