Sunday, January 12, 2014

Move over, Harry Hole: A Review of Closed for Winter (A William Wisting Mystery) by Jorn Lier Horst

The cornucopia of crime and detective novels coming out of Scandinavia unnerves me. Those affluent and chill residents of the north land with good government are subject to some very nasty criminals, at least according to their crime writers. Starting with Steig Larson and his dragon-tattooed heroine, to Henning Menkell (via television for me) to Jo Nesbo, we get a very different look at Scandinavia. Now I’ve added Jorn Lier Horst to my list of Scandinavian crime writers, and he’s a worthy addition. 

Unlike fellow Norwegian cop Harry Hole from Jo Nesbo, Lier Horst’s Wisting isn’t confronted—in this book at least—with psychopaths and persons bent on deep revenge. Instead, Wisting has to deal with, well, criminals, the sort that you encounter if you’ve had anything to do with the criminal justice system, as I have. Unlike criminals on screen or in fiction, most persons charged with crimes are screw-ups first and foremost. A few are professional, and fewer still are deadly. A police officer has to sort it all out, the dumb, the opportunistic, and the calculating. Sorting it all out is what William Wisting must do. 

Lier Horst was a cop until very recently, and it shows. Lier Horst displays an appreciation of the mundane challenges of policing, such as gathering evidence, dealing with co-workers and other agencies, interviewing witnesses and suspects, leading a personal life, and so on. Not always glamorous, but then how much of life is glamorous? I found Wisting an appealing character for his plainness and the realism of the plot. In my two forays with Jo Nesbo, The Redbreast and then The Snowman, I found the plots a bit too contrived, the villains too psychopathically sinister, and Harry Hole experiencing too many cliffhangers. Lier Horst’s effort in Closed for Winter avoids this fault. It intrigues by remaining largely prosaic. 

So Wisting now goes onto my list along with Arkady Renko, John Rebus, and John Marshall Tanner as characters that I will join again for another case.