Review - The Lion's Mouth, Anne Holt

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

The Hanne Wilhelmsen series from Norwegian author Anne Holt is fabulous, even if it is being translated out of sequence. Which means in THE LION'S MOUTH, Wilhelmsen, who doesn't make an appearance until later in the novel and is not the central investigator anyway, is also walking around. In the novels already made available to many of us she's in a wheelchair permanently. Allowing for the slight confusion that could cause, these books work well as you can, worse comes to worse, approach them as standalones if necessary, although obviously character introduction and development always works better when you start at the beginning.

The main protagonist of this book, Billy T is a slightly unusual Norwegian policeman, what with his complicated personal life, skinhead / punk style looks and dress sense, a love of Opera and his sons. He's also one of the very few cops (and people for that matter) who share affection and respect with Wilhelmsen. When she eventually does make an appearance in the novel - having moved to the US with her partner, she finds herself staying with Billy T, and it's obvious that these two outsiders are both good friends, and like minded investigators. 

Which is just as well as the plot here is complicated without being complex. The locked room assassination of the Norwegian Prime Minister means that motive becomes particularly important, as method is not immediately obvious. Whether or not her shooting is politically motivated and even then from within her own ranks, or those opposed is not straightforward as there are a number of other complications. It's particularly sobering that this novel, originally published in 1997, also expands on the possibility of a neo-Nazi plot to murder leading figures in Norway. Other complications are more personal and much closer to home.

Where the plot has particular credence though is in the background, infighting and intrigue occurring within political circles. Given that Holt has, in the past, held the position of Minister for Justice and for this and one of her other earlier novels, credit is shared with former State Secretary Berit Reiss-Anderson, it would seem reasonable to assume that these aspects are written from a position of both knowledge and experience.

That doesn't however, overwhelm in terms of motive, and the background of the Prime Minister and her family is trawled through, as is that of her childhood friend, Supreme Court Judge Benjamin Grinde. Aside from him being the last known person to visit the Prime Minister's Office before she was killed, his position as Chair of a Commission looking into a the increase of young baby deaths around 1965 also has implications for them all.

Holt is not afraid to write strong characters with unpleasant edges that aren't sanded down and don't apologise for what they are. Here she's combined them into a plot that looks at the rights and wrongs of society and the possible implications of power, corruption and nepotism. All of which made for a really engaging read.

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

From the internationally bestselling author of 1222, called the “godmother of modern Norwegian crime” by Jo Nesbø, the next book in the Edgar Award–nominated mystery series: Hanne Wilhelmsen is on the case when someone murders the prime minister of Norway.

Less than six months after taking office, the Norwegian Prime Minister is found dead. She has been shot in the head. But was it a politically motivated assassination or personal revenge?

Hanne Wilhelmsen, Chief Inspector of the Norwegian Police, is on leave in California but when the death shakes the country to its core, she knows she can’t remain on the sidelines of such a crucial investigation. The hunt for the Prime Minister’s killer is complicated, intense, and grueling. When secrets begin to unravel from the Prime Minister’s past, Hanne and her partner, Billy T., must piece together the crime before a private tragedy becomes a public outcry, in what will become the most sensitive case of their career.

Filled with lies, deception, and the truth about government, The Lion’s Mouth questions who truly holds the power in Norway, and how far they will go to keep it. 

Review Review - The Lion's Mouth, Anne Holt
Karen Chisholm
Monday, February 8, 2016

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