Death Deserved

Book reviewDeath Deserved

Washington, D.C.

Jørn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger, two of the most popular Norwegian crime novelists today, collaborated on a thriller. Each had a certain perspective to bring to the book, due to their respective professions before they became best-selling authors.

The protagonist of Horst’s popular crime series is senior police detective William Wisting, based on the author’s own experience as senior investigating officer at the Vestfold police district. Enger’s Henning Juul is an investigative journalist at 123 News, modeled after the author’s nine-year career at the Norwegian online newspaper Nettavisen. It is not surprising, then, that the two main characters in Death Deserved are Alexander Blix, a police officer, and Emma Ramm, a journalist.

Death Deserved

The novel begins with a flashback to an incident that had happened years before. Officer Blix and his partner Gard Fosse had responded to a call of domestic violence and found a man holding his 5-year-old daughter hostage with a gun to her head. Blix and Fosse disagreed on the appropriate action to take. Blix focused on saving the girl and killed the man. His action was deemed inadvisable, and it hurt his career.

Fast forward. Years later, Fosse is promoted and becomes Blix’s superior officer. Their relationship has not been friendly since the unfortunate incident years ago. Blix chafes under Fosse’s orders, not only because he resents that Fosse was promoted over him but also because he considers most of his boss’ orders unreasonable and unwise. He must, however, try to swallow his pride and force himself to remember his subordinate position.

Suddenly they have a very high-profile case to solve. Sonja Nordstrøm, a popular former long-distance runner, has written a controversial autobiography, entitled Always Number One. On the eve of the book launch, the public is eagerly waiting for her to be interviewed on a popular television station. However, she fails to appear for this highly anticipated interview. Where is she? Why didn’t she show up? What could have happened to her? Speculation goes wild.

Thomas Enger

Photo: Berit Roald / NTB
Thomas Enger (born 1973 – ).

Celebrity blogger Emma Ramm, who writes for, goes to the woman’s house to investigate. Finding her front door unlocked, she cautiously goes inside. She immediately realizes that something is wrong and alerts the police.

Blix is the first to arrive on the scene. Foul play is immediately suspected and the search for Nordstrøm begins. Soon after, a popular Danish football player goes missing, and he is then found murdered. Other murders follow.

Ramm soon sees a common thread linking Nordstrøm and the victims: all are celebrities. This is, of course, right up her alley. She then makes another connection. She notices that in some way a number is connected to each, beginning with the Number One taped to the television in Nordstrøm’s house. A serial killer who has set a countdown in motion must be on the loose. 

She and Blix begin an unofficial collaboration. Ramm contributes her expertise and research on the lives of the most popular celebrities in Norway. Blix suggests helpful questions that she can ask his boss at the frequent press conferences. She suddenly becomes a celebrity herself as she is recognized as the writer with several inside scoops.

Jørn Lier Horst

Photo: Gorm Kallestad / NTB
Jørn Lier Horst (born 1970 –).

A race against time begins in order to find the killer before more celebrities are murdered. The police officer and the celebrity journalist make a good pair. They both suffer, however, under the pressure exerted by their respective bosses. Fosse is constantly second-guessing Blix and threatening to take him off the case. Anita Grønvold, Ramm’s boss, wants to publish her reporter’s scoops before given a green light and, in this way, she often risks hurting the investigation and losing Blix’s trust.

The authors also make a good pair. They have collaborated successfully in writing an engaging police thriller with interesting characters and many exciting twists and turns in the plot. Death Deserved was published in 2020, followed by Smoke Screen in 2021. May there be many more novels written by this Norwegian duo!

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 22, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Christine Foster Meloni

Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, D.C. She values her Norwegian heritage.