PUNISHMENT - Anne Holt
PUNISHMENT is the first in a newly translated, extremely successful series in Europe, featuring academic and former FBI profiler Johanne Vik and Detective Inspector Adam Stubo of the Oslo police.
When 9 year old Emilie goes missing her father is worried but not frantic. She'd done this once before just after her mother died. This time, they don't find her. When a little boy disappears and ultimately is returned to his parents; dead, no obvious cause of death, and a handwritten note: You Got What You Deserved; Oslo starts to worry.
Police Superintendent Adam Stubo, working the case, turns to former FBI profiler Johanne Vik for help. Johanne is already looking into the conviction of Aksel Seier for the rape and murder of a young child many years ago. An old lady really wants to know if Seier was guilty or not. Johanne is not confident that she can help Adam, but he is increasingly desperate for any sort of lead that the Police can get. He and his team make very little progress and they soon have 3 abducted children, two dead and a chance that Emilie is still alive.
The story shifts focus between the search for the current child killer in Oslo to Johanne's search for information about Seier's case. At the same time Adam is increasingly leaning on Johanne for assistance in the case and for human contact. Adam's own wife and daughter have died. Johanne has a disabled daughter she struggles to manage on occasion, and an ex-husband who would be happy to take full custody of their daughter.
Whilst both of the cases slowly gather some pace, the central part of the story concentrates on the increasing involvement of Johanne and Adam. It's not a romantic involvement as such, but there is a feeling of interest and reliance from both of them.
There are a couple of hints in this book that indicate a first time novel. There is a tendency towards over-development and over-explanation of characters, and at points this concentration takes away from the pace and focus you would expect from a current day serial killer investigation. The resolution was also over reliant on some coincidences which certainly added to the thriller side of the story, but perhaps over-egged the pudding slightly.
Neither of these minor quibbles ultimately take much away from the book, and the central character of Adam Stubo is a really interesting, sympathetic and intuitive Police Detective.
One afternoon after school, nine-year-old Emilie doesn't come home. Her father finds the backpack from her late mother, that would never be abandoned willingly. A week later, a five-year-old boy goes missing. And then another child.
Meanwhile, Johanne Vik, a former FBI profiler with a troubled past and a difficult young daughter, tries to overturn a decades-old false murder conviction. Police Commissioner Stubo lost his wife and daughter, has only his grandson left, and needs to solve the case. Johanna resists helping until the bodies return to their homes with notes "You got what you deserved".