September 6, 2013

Book Review: Death of the Demon by Anne Holt


Anne Holt's Death of the Demon brings back Oslo detective Hanne Wilhemsen, the protagonist of 2012's 1222--although this novel was published more than a decade ago in Norway and is just now appearing in English.

Hanne, recently promoted to chief inspector, is having a hard time letting go of fieldwork and delegating to her colleagues. Trying to be everywhere and do everything is not endearing her to her subordinates, even though everyone reluctantly admits she's a very clever detective. She will need all her brilliance in this case: Agnes Vestavik, director of Oslo's only group foster home for troubled children, has been found dead--an Ikea knife shoved into her back. A 12-year-old boy named Olav, who hadn't been in the home long, has vanished. Olav was notoriously troubled; could he have stabbed Agnes and fled?

As Hanne and her team delve into the case, she is troubled on several levels. Secrets about foster home staff members keep emerging, proving that nearly everyone is hiding something. Meanwhile, Hanne's own personal life is getting rocky; her girlfriend wants to have children, and Hanne adamantly doesn't.

Holt makes Hanne's prickly intelligence all too real, as are the troubled children in the foster home and the variously motivated people working with them. Death of the Demon brings questions of "nature versus nurture" into play, as the police are forced to determine whether a 12-year-old is truly capable of the crime, and as Hanne struggles with her reasons for not wanting children.

I felt the ending of 1222 was ridiculous, and I liked Hanne much better in this book. It was so strange to read them out of order though - and discover the early Hanne, before she was her bitter self from 1222.

I'm not sure if I want to read more Anne Holt or not though. There's something compelling about her books, and yet I don't actually like them much; which I realize sounds a bit silly. I wish I could put my finger on what it is that I don't like about them.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Details are fuzzy. I seem to remember a fair amount of swearing?

Do you ever dislike a book, for no good reason?

I originally wrote this review for Shelf Awareness. The cover image is an Amazon affiliate link.