Holt, Anne – ‘Fear Not’ (translated by Marlaine Delargy)
Hardback: 400 pages (July 2011) Publisher: Corvus ISBN: 1848876106
The fourth, and most successful, of the Vik/Stubo novels opens as a young girl wanders around Oslo city at night, drifting onto the tram tracks while lost in her imaginary world. As the trolley bears down on her, a man sweeps her up, saving her life. At the same time, the distraught mother comes rushing out of a nearby hotel, grabs her daughter and slaps the rescuer’s face.
The woman is Johanne Vik, who has been attending her sister’s wedding. Her daughter tells her that “the lady” is dead. Johanne thinks Kristina is confused and means the babysitter she employed to watch the girl during the late wedding party, but of course, the child is not that misguided, as later becomes apparent.
The story shifts to the tales of various characters – a woman priest is shockingly murdered, stabbed while out on a walk one night. Adam Stubo of the national crime investigation squad and Johanne’s partner, is bought in to help the investigation, gently probing the priest’s catatonic husband and grown-up son to find an explanation for this apparently deranged and illogical crime. The decomposed body of a young man or boy is found in the river, which forms a separate plot thread. In this mix is a self-made industrialist, whose story we slowly learn and who we gradually realise is intimately involved in these and other apparently unrelated crimes that are leaving the police confused.
It is Johanne, still officially on maternity leave, who instinctively begins to connect the dots. In the middle of the book, in a somewhat artificial but fascinating side-section, she meets with an old American friend from her days with the FBI. Together the two women talk about hate crime, and Johanne (who is writing a thesis on the topic) begins to piece together the motivation for the current crime wave and the threat she perceives to her daughter.
This is an excellent book – in a couple of the previous novels in this series, the author has left things hanging in the air a bit at the end. This is not the case here. FEAR NOT is a fully rounded novel that addresses the terrorist and fanatical elements that plague our contemporary society, but elects to do so in an intelligent and engaging manner rather than by indulging in melodramatics. Having said this, the book is certainly not a dull lecture; to the contrary it provides plenty of conundrums that do eventually turn out to have plausible solutions. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, not least for its contemporary relevance in terms of its treatment of hate-inspired crimes, and very much look forward to the author’s next. The translation into a naturalistic style is very good, but it is a pity that the publishers do not provide Marlaine Delargy’s name in their catalogue or on online bookselling websites.