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When It Grows Dark by Jorn Lier Horst (translated by Anne Bruce)

March 3, 2017

Stavern 1983: Christmas is approaching, snow is falling heavily, and a young ambitious policeman named William Wisting has just become the father of twins. After a brutal robbery he is edged off the investigation by more experienced officers, but soon he is on another case that is not only unsolved but has not even been recognised as murder. Forgotten in a dilapidated barn stands a bullet riddled old car, and it looks as if the driver did not get out alive. This case will shape William Wisting as a policeman and give him insight that he will carry with him for the rest of his professional career: generations form an unbroken chain.

If I am ever the victim of a crime, please send William Wisting to handle it. Joan Lier Horst’s Wisting is everything you could wish for in a policeman. Caring husband and father, enthusiastic and thorough investigator, he does have flaws, but at heart is an old fashioned, thoroughly decent, policeman.

When It Grows Dark takes us back to the beginning of Wisting’s career as an investigator. It is something of a prequel to the other stories and as such is a little bit different.

This is Wisting as a somewhat naive young policeman, not yet a detective, though anxious to join their ranks when it is achievable. Married to Ingrid, newly blessed with twins, Thomas and Line, Wisting is an enthusiastic policeman who relishes his job and craves more responsibility. Yet he is somewhat frustrated. He hates that he writes up reports of his patrols, highlighting patterns he has detected or ways in which he thinks detectives might usefully progress a lead and yet he never gets to be part of the follow up process.

When, therefore, in the course of helping a friend, he comes across an old mystery, he starts his own investigation; one that will lead to finding a long dead body – after which he is officially given the case to look into.

Through detailed research, he finds relatives of the victim and begins to piece together the story of what happened to the lost car and its driver one hot day in August 1925.

Along the way he does, of course, make mistakes. One mistake in particular haunts him throughout his career. And so, when some 33 years later, he receives a letter that offers the answers he was looking for all those years ago, he knows he has to see it through to the end.

A really good storyteller, Joan Lier Horst is a thoroughbred when it comes to police procedurals. (Must be something to do with all those years he spent as a senior police investigator).

His characters are strong and sympathetic and this is a well plotted story.

In taking us back to Wisting’s early years, Horst is reminding us of a more optimistic time in Wisting’s life, where crime was more often opportunistic and social conditions had not yet contributed to the darker world of crime he becomes used to later in his career.

It is really good to revisit Wisting’s youth and see how the police investigator’s career began.

This was a fast and easy read and I very much enjoyed it. Wisting remains one of my favourite policemen.

When It Grows Dark is published by Sandstone Press on 16th March 2017

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