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Beyond the Truth: A Hanne Wilhelmsen Novel

Review

Beyond the Truth: A Hanne Wilhelmsen Novel

Many of the series that are included in the Nordic noir subgenre are published out of order. I discuss this in more detail below, but for now please note that fans of Anne Holt’s addictive Hanne Wilhelmsen series should rejoice. BEYOND THE TRUTH, the seventh book in the series, is making its debut in the United States, thanks to Scribner, Holt’s US publisher, and ace translator Anne Bruce. Note well: This title was originally published in 2003. Things have changed so rapidly in the developed world, technologically and culturally speaking, that some parts of the book may seem more historic than they would otherwise. Reading with that forewarning in mind will increase your enjoyment of it.

BEYOND THE TRUTH takes place over the course of a very long 10-day period in the latter part of December, a time when emotions run high and long. A word of warning: If you are in the habit of reading while eating (or vice versa), you do NOT want to be indulging in some holiday steak tartar or its equivalent when you begin reading this book. What follows after a rather unsettling vignette is a high-profile quadruple murder investigation conducted by Chief Detective Inspector Wilhelmsen and her team. The scene of the crime is the home of Hermann Stahlberg, a wealthy industrialist known as much for his accumulation of filthy lucre as he is for his extreme reluctance to part with a krone of it. He is but one of the victims; the others are his wife and elder son, and a fourth individual who cannot be identified immediately. The scene has a festive look to it, as if the killings interrupted a celebration that was taking place.

"Holt gives a nod to Agatha Christie and a wink to Edgar Allan Poe during the course of BEYOND THE TRUTH, but the ultimate tale is all Holt, all the time."

The questions that are promptly raised are why Stahlberg’s daughter and younger son were not there, and, of course, if they had anything to do with the killing. The answer to the latter question seems to be undoubtedly “yes,” given that there had been some rumored infighting within the family over control of Stahlberg’s businesses. When the investigation seems to confirm just that, it is only Wilhelmsen who is troubled by the presence of the fourth victim. When he is found to be a very competent but otherwise nondescript textbook researcher, it is merely assumed that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Wilhelmsen, though, is interested in --- and then becomes obsessed over --- the presence of this outlier in the disturbing and violent homicidal tableau.

Holt gives a nod to Agatha Christie and a wink to Edgar Allan Poe during the course of BEYOND THE TRUTH, but the ultimate tale is all Holt, all the time. Wilhelmsen retains her legendary insightful brilliance, but, as the result of a combination of personal and professional factors --- frustration chief among them --- becomes more and more erratic in her behavior. There are several twists and turns in what might seem to be a straightforward investigation, and they take Wilhelmsen to unexpected places and to a conclusion that neither she nor the reader would ever anticipate.

Her police partner of many years, Billy T., is there along the way, as longtime readers of this series would expect, displaying by turns some grim gallows humor at the crime scene while crying on the inside over a number of personal problems that are threatening to converge on him as Christmas approaches. Meanwhile, Wilhelmsen has some conflicts of her own that ultimately are rendered minor by the conclusion of the story.

1222, which follows BEYOND THE TRUTH in the Wilhelmsen series proper, has already been published in the United States some time ago. The latest book, titled OFFLINE, is scheduled for release in 2017. Those of us enamored by this fine series should (and, in my case, will) take the time to reread what has gone before, in order, with an eye toward fully appreciating what Holt and her translators have done over the course of several years with this truly intriguing and unique character. BEYOND THE TRUTH is a pivotal work in the series and is not to be missed.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 16, 2016

Beyond the Truth: A Hanne Wilhelmsen Novel
by Anne Holt

  • Publication Date: December 6, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • ISBN-10: 1501123459
  • ISBN-13: 9781501123450