Punishment by Anne Holt

“In a matter of days, two children in Norway have been kidnapped – by whom and for what reason is anyone’s guess. And now one child is dead, packed like a piece of furniture and delivered to his parents’ home with a horrifying note. Stumped and desperate, Norwegian police inspector Adam Stubo hopes former FBI profiler Johanne Vik can come up with answers.” “Already immersed in the investigation of a murder suspect who fled to the United States forty years ago, Vik is reluctant to take on the case of this boy and the kidnapping of a little girl named Emilie, two crimes which seem to have nothing in common. Then another child is abducted, and Vik, a mother of a six-year-old herself, can no longer stand idly by.” Now, with a few clues in sight and the lives of who knows how many innocents at stake, Stubo and Vik weave their way through a complex maze of madness and revenge. For Stubo, who knows all too well what it is like to lose a child, talking to the grieving parents is a nightmare in itself. But it can’t compare to what one particular little girl is experiencing at the hands of a madman.

I’ve been reading a lot of SciFi and Fantasy lately and it’s been a while since I’ve read any good thrillers so I decided to take a break with a Crime Fiction novel. Punishment also known as What is Mine is the first book in a Norwegian series featuring former FBI profiler Johanne Vik. What started off as an exciting story about kidnapped children and a crazed killer, only to be let down by a series of disappointing events that are too convenient and coincidental.

Joanne Vik was brought into the case of missing children by Superintendent Adam Stubo because of her outspoken behaviour on television and her so called expertise. However in this book, Vik hardly uses her profiling skills, instead most of the book has her chasing after another story she is working on for her own academic studies or refusing to help with the investigation.

The book doesn’t focus on the investigation either, as most of it happens behind the scenes. We just know that Stubo somehow stumbled on to the killer through his interviews with the victims’ mothers and that he knew he found the killer because of his gut instinct as an experienced law enforcer. I thought crime novels would involve more police work or perhaps I’m just spoilt by the clear and precise investigations in Jeffery Deaver’s books.

While the tension of the kidnappings was tight, it was broken by Vik’s own research into a past case that has no bearing on the current investigation. The linkage between the two cases at the end of the book is so contrived that it should never have got past the editor. I would have bat my eyes to this if this was the only coincidence in the book but no, the killer has to convenient clash with another wanted man in another case. In the end the book is just a bunch of laughable dei ex machinis.

The two main characters, Vik and Stubo are the only redeeming factors in this book. They are fairly interesting and each has their own problems to take care of before they can begin a relationship together. However I wish Holt would have spent as much time on the killer to explain his actions rather than simply cast him as an outcast of society.

I guess I just expected too much from someone who is marketed as the next Stieg Larsson.