William Wisting has seen a lot of crime scenes in his days as chief inspector, but never before has he faced a mystery which raises so many questions that shake him to the core. In Closed for Winter, an idyllic hamlet of holiday cottages in Vestfold on the rugged Norwegian coast becomes the scene for a gruesome murder, which leaves the local police department with more questions than it can answer. With several cottages having been ransacked by burglars as well, the police question nearby house-owners, including celebrated TV-host Thomas Rønningen, to see if and how the burglaries and the murder are connected – with little results. Bad comes to worse, however, when the hearse that was to deliver the corpse to forensics goes missing, and subsequently surfaces burnt-out by the side of the motorway, with all evidence damaged beyond recognition.
Wisting and his team soon discover that there are dangerous games afoot, as they set out to unravel the riddles surrounding the mysterious murder. Digging for answers and justice, they find out that little is as it seems, and the chief inspector will have to face relentless criminal gangs in search for the truth. Things get even more complicated when it slowly dawns on Wisting that the people closest to him might be in over their heads as well, and dark elements threaten to pose a real danger to his own family. Meanwhile, birds are falling from the sky…
Years of personal experience in the force have imbued author Jørn Lier Horst’s work with a solid credibility, offering compelling insight into the mechanics of real-life police work on nigh textbook level, while never sacrificing his strengths in the storytelling department. Moreover, the writer manages to inject his characters with a deep conviction and an unyielding work ethic that only years of professional involvement can instil.
His long-time protagonist, William Wisting – John Barnaby’s gruff cousin from Norway – is a dogged veteran investigator with a strong sense of morality and justice – without this his faith in humanity would have worn down decades ago. Together with his team of the best crime researchers and an expert forensics department, Wisting is confident in their ability to fight against the rise in organised crime; although it has become an increasingly pitched battle against ever bolder gangs. A battle that they may not win in the long run.
As fans of the series will know, Horst delivers strong characterizations full of nuance and life, pitting his characters against each other in a believable world of crime, where even the motives of the most hardened criminals are set in terms of international divides in wealth and poverty, with black-and-white justice broken down into very human shades of grey.
Another asset of Horst’s credibility shows in the very clever pacing of the story. The first few chapters might be frustratingly slow-moving – mirroring the slow progress and dead ends the investigation suffers. Yet as the plot thickens, the pace quickens; going through several twists and turns, past uneventful stake-outs and tense negotiations to blood-rushing fast action hunting down heavyweight criminals before time runs out.
Painstaking and swift, Closed for Winter is a piece of quality craftsmanship, with Horst meticulously bringing together an unexpectedly windy plot, highly intelligent characterizations and a delectably subtle ‘noir’ mood to create a very engrossing crime novel.