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In Dust and Ashes: A Hanne Wilhelmsen Novel

Review

In Dust and Ashes: A Hanne Wilhelmsen Novel

The newly published IN DUST AND ASHES is the 10th and final Hanne Wilhelmsen novel. As to whether the multifaceted and somewhat difficult Oslo detective fades into the sunset or passes tragically, you are going to have to read the book to find out. However, there are many other reasons to pick it up, including sharp characterization, brilliant plotting and a pair of puzzling mysteries, all of which play out against the background ticking of a loud plot. It seems that author Anne Holt (with an assist in the form of a fine translation by Anne Bruce) has saved the very best for last.

Holt has been terrific from the jump. But IN DUST AND ASHES stands as a potential classic of Nordic noir, an exceedingly clever work that demands to be read in one sitting. It begins with a retirement (not Hanne’s) involving a police superintendent who chafes at the closely held idea that he may have been responsible for the conviction of an innocent man. He passes a file --- a three-ring binder, really --- to Henrik Holme, an Oslo detective who is somewhat of a protégé to Hanne and somewhat of an assistant. It’s an odd pairing, what with Hanne’s prickly personality and Henrik’s obsessive-compulsive personality traits. They somehow manage to rub each other the right way, at least most of the time.

"It seems that author Anne Holt (with an assist in the form of a fine translation by Anne Bruce) has saved the very best for last."

The case, which Henrik takes outside of official channels, has to do with a man who was convicted of murdering his wife. It may have been a suicide, though the defendant never really denied his guilt. Hanne is obsessed with an incident in which a controversial Norwegian political figure committed suicide. The victim left a note, and it all seems cut and dried. However, Hanne initiates her own investigation --- also outside of official channels --- and kicks up some dust along the way. The two investigations provide a nice counterpoint to each other, given that one is a suicide that might have been a murder, and the other is a murder that might have been a suicide. Meanwhile, a young girl is kidnapped and secreted away by a man driven half-mad with grief. The reader knows why (kind of) and is made to feel very uneasy about it, and with good reason.

Meanwhile, Holt is in no particular hurry to reveal anything along the way, a state of affairs that raises the suspense quotient to an excruciating level. Things aren’t entirely resolved until the book’s very last sentence, but don’t you dare peek and spoil it all for yourself. It’s an ending worth waiting for.

IN DUST AND ASHES feels more like the passing of the baton rather than the conclusion of the race. A good deal (but not all) of the novel is given over to Henrik Holme, who certainly demonstrates here that he is more than capable of heading up a series on his own. While such a spinoff would be music to my ears, we have this 10-volume series to read and reread in the meantime. That’s not a bad deal at all.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 11, 2018

In Dust and Ashes: A Hanne Wilhelmsen Novel
by Anne Holt

  • Publication Date: May 1, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • ISBN-10: 1501174789
  • ISBN-13: 9781501174780