Reviewed By: Luke Croll - RAM
This is the first of Norwegian author Anne Holt’s novels to hit UK shores. PUNISHMENT, published in the US as WHAT IS MINE, stars Superintendent Adam Stubo, a police officer struggling to solve a string of disappearances. In the midst of a beautiful spring in Norway, a series of children have vanished and the victims appear to have no clear connection. Stubo turns to legal researcher Johanne Vik, but she is more interested in researching a miscarriage of justice from the past. Will Stubo be able to convince her to come on board and help solve the mystery?
PUNISHMENT is a very interesting novel that shows Anne Holt’s skill as an author, but is at times let down by moments of clumsiness. Take, for example, the events of the denouement when an event brings a sudden and unexpected conclusion to the tale. It is an example of pure implausibility and I had to stifle the sudden urge to hurl the book against the wall in fury. The chances of such an event occuring are slim to non-existent and I felt that Holt was cheating the readers by playing with such unlikely coincidences. This is also rather surprising, given that she has been writing since 1993.
Holt does, however, triumph with her characters, all of whom are multi-layered and ripe for development. The nascent relationship between Johanne Vik and Adam Stubo is developed well and we are given numerous insights into the troubled psyche of all the protagonists. Particularly interesting is the manner in which the country struggles to come to terms with what is going on, since child abductions of this sort are extremely uncommon in Norway. A reader, I am sure, would find it hard to imagine such dark happenings in Scandinavia, but Holt paints a terrifying picture of how fear grips the country.
Overall, the novel has been translated well by Kari Dickson, who deserves a great deal of credit for making the story read well in English. There was one occasion, however, in which I thought the translation fell down. We are told that a character was struggling with whether to say the word ‘profiler’ in English or in Norwegian. Given that we are reading an English translation, we do not want to think about the Norwegian language at all, except when it is used to give a little local colour, to the novel and I found that it really jarred. Despite this, however, I thought the prose was fluid and the story worked well as a whole – apart from being let down by extremely weak conclusion.
Luke Croll - RAM
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Luke Croll - Conference interpreter and translator