Offline, Anne Holt

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

I'm behind with this series, and heartily confused about the order in which to read them. But this fortuitous find in a neglected stack of purchased books, is blurbed as the "long-awaited sequel to 1222". Which I did really enjoy. It's also listed as the 9th Hanne Wilhelmsen novel, but I do remember at the time that I read 1222 (the 8th) it was the only one in translation I could get. Or something.

OFFLINE is an interesting undertaking for a number of reasons. Written after the 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway, the car bomb in Oslo, then the shooting of 69, mostly young people, on the island of Utøya, it purposefully explores the difficulties in predicting terrorism attacks, and identifying likely perpetrators. More chillingly, it explores the idea of misdirected attention / expectations of who is committing terrorist acts and purposeful demonisation. Given it was published in 2015, it is still very relevant to today.

Right from the start there's something a bit odd about the bomb that goes off in the Islamic Cooperation Council's offices in Oslo, killing twenty-three people. Police and Security services are in pursuit of a shadowy organisation, ever heard of before, who claim responsibility, whilst also trying to prevent a potential follow-up attack on a major yearly celebration in Norway. There's some fascinating insights into the problems that occur when groups or individuals are "dark" or offline. How authorities experience so much difficulty in discovering intent, activities, purpose when the perpetrators are careful about keeping their activities out of the usual online world.

Meanwhile Hanne Wilhelmsen, wheelchair-bound for some years since the events of the earlier novel 1222, is back working as a special advisor on cold case investigations, in cooperation with a young, keen police officer who is assigned to assist her. Initially her only connections to the terrorism bombings are a cracked lounge window from the first bomb, and her long-time friend Billy T., who is convinced his son is involved with the group responsible. It's as she tries to help Billy find out the truth, and some connections appear with the cold case that she is looking into, that Wilhelmsen realises that there is something very threatening, and unexpected behind these bombings, and they have a very limited amount of time to stop it.

There are now (I think) 12 books in this series, some of which are still not translated, so it might be best to dive in wherever you can get your hands on one. They are well worth it, Wilhemsen is a strong female character who is perfect for solving crimes with brain power as opposed to physical activity. She's also not an idealised character - tricky to get along with, notoriously grumpy, she's also generous to those who she admires, and a loving joint mum to her daughter. This novel, in particular, includes many snippets of the ups and downs of raising teenagers, in a mixed-race, same-sex family. There are also great insights into the pressures felt by senior management and officers in a police force that's under pressure from political figures as well as a population who are alternatively frightened, and reckless in the face of a very real threat to safety. And then there's Billy T., who is another wonderful character, full of complication and doubt, and determined to get to the truth no matter what.

Anne Holt has been referred to as the 'godmother of modern Norwegian crime fiction'. Her past experience working for the Oslo Police Department, before founding her own law firm and serving as Norway's Minister for Justice for a year provides her not just with the qualifications to understand the subject matter, but one would imagine, some insight into what it's like for the legal and political system to come to grips with all sorts of criminal activities. She certainly knows how to produce well written, atmospheric character driven crime fiction which tackles important questions along the way.


Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

It has been eleven years since Hanne Wilhelmsen's life was forever changed by an assault that left her wheelchair bound. Now, Hanne's self-imposed exile is nearing its end. When Oslo comes under attack from Islamic extremists in a series of explosions, the city is left reeling. A militant group claim responsibility, but the Norwegian police force doubt on the authenticity of the declaration, and the group's very existence. The unfolding drama is brought to Hanne's door by her former partner Billy T., who is convinced that his son, Linus, is involved in the recent events. He begs Hanne for help. But Hanne soon learns that she cannot protect Linus, Billy T. or the people of Oslo. Those bent of destruction are one step ahead, and many lives will be lost before the truth is revealed...Don't miss this unforgettable sequel to Anne Holt's biggest bestseller 1222 - and penultimate novel in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series.

Review Offline, Anne Holt
Karen Chisholm
Wednesday, November 15, 2023
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