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When Chief Public Prosecutor Sigurd Halvorsrud’s wife, Doris Flo, is found decapitated in the Halvorsrud living room with the Chief Public Prosecutor covered with blood by her side, things don’t look good for him. He also waited an hour before calling the police. He says however, that he did not commit this heinous crime but knows who did…Stale Salvesen, a man he’s never met and has no idea really what he looks like. Upon initial investigation, the link between  Halvorsrud and Salvesen is tenuous to say the least, and unfortunately for all involved, Salvesen can’t be found.


As the weeks pass, little to no new evidence is uncovered but what is uncovered is harmful to the defendant. When a second decapitation is discovered and Halvorsrud’s fingerprints are in the room, he is re-incarcerated, having been released due to family health crises.

Throughout Dead Joker, Anne Holt interweaves potential red herrings such as child molestation, bribery, unethical behavior, etc.

According to Series.com, the Online Guide to Series Fiction, “Anne Holt is one of the most successful Norwegian crime writers.  Trained as a lawyer, Holt has worked in broadcasting as a journalist and anchor woman.  She also spent two years working in the Oslo police force before opening her own law practice.  She has written five novels in the Vik/Stubo series.  Johanne Vik is a Norwegian-American psychology professor and former FBI profiler. She is the divorced caretaker of a mentally challenged six-year old. Adam Stubo is an Oslo police inspector who is recovering from the deaths of his wife and young child.  Together they are a formidable team. Holt has also written a series of eight crime novels starring lesbian police officer Hanne Wilhelmsen.  Scribner seems to be releasing them in the U.S, but not in the correct reading order.  1222 (Scribner, 2011) is the second book in the series.  The Blind Goddess (Scribner, 2012, published in Norway in 1993) is the first.  It introduces Hanne and tells how she became paralyzed. All of Holt’s mysteries are well-written and suspenseful.They feature fully drawn characters and plenty of Scandinavian atmosphere.”

Dead Joker is the latest in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series, published in 1999 in Norway and 2016 in the U.S. Hanne Wilhelmsen is police officer extraordinaire! She is aided by a half dozen officers, one of whom is Billy T., her best friend. She is under a lot of pressure both personally and professionally, and as a result gets away with treating these coworkers quite shabbily. Dead Joker, however, is not really a police procedural in the vein of, say Icelander Arnaldur Indridason’s Detective Erlendur series. There was not a lot of procedure in the book.

Dead Joker concentrates on interpersonal relationships…between Hanne and her partner, Cecile, between Billy T and his soon to be wife, between Karen Borg, an attorney, and Hanne, etc. I cold keep going. However, having never read a Hanne Wilhelmsen book before, not knowing the backstory detracted from understanding what was going on, especially between Hanne and Cecile. As per Series.com, the “characters do seem fully drawn and there is plenty of Scandinavian atmosphere”, however, some backstory would be helpful for the uninitiated.

So, now I’m moving on to another Scandinavian (Icelandic) author, Yrsa Sigurdardottir. and her first book, Last Rituals. The books seem to be published in order in the U.S. and not with decades between the Scandinavian and U.S. editions. I’ll let you know how that goes.

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