The loud, profane, huge Billy T. of the Oslo Police is the lead investigator. He is not a patient man yet his reaction to being with the murder victim is striking:
As always when he found himself in close proximity to a corpse, it struck Billy T. that nothing was as naked as death. Seeing this woman who had ruled the country until three hours ago, this woman whom he had never seen in the flesh but had encountered every single day on TV, in the newspapers, and on the radio; seeing Birgitte Volter, the human being behind the public persona, lying dead on her own desk, this was worse, more embarrassing, and made him feel more self-conscious than seeing her without any clothes. Billy T. turned away and walked down the stairs.
The police face challenge after challenge in their investigation.
How did the killer gain access when Andersen and security guards say no one entered the office after Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Grinde?
In addition to being a judge Grinde is also the chair of a committee investigating the disproportionate number of sudden deaths of Norwegian babies in 1965.
In a somewhat surreal scene the police arrest Grinde as he is about to make liver pate in his home. After a quick conversation the police realize they have no evidence beyond Grinde being the last person to see Volter alive and he is swiftly released.
Who would want to kill the Prime Minister? As they start their investigation the police do not know whether she was killed for a political reason or because of a personal vendetta.
There are so many potential killers to be investigated. As well as Grinde they must look at her family, her friends, her staff, those working in her office building, her political colleagues and extremist right wing opponents of her Labor Party.
Classic Norwegian reserve hampers the police. No one is forthcoming about anything. Relationships have to be pried out.
As the investigation proceeds the secrets of Volter’s life are gradually revealed.
Who will gain politically from her death is not clear. The new leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister is not an enthusiastic successor.
When the gun turns out to be an antique Russian revolver there are yet more complications.
In their investigation the police are extremely conscious of the bungled Olof Palme murder investigation by the Swedish police 11 years earlier. There has never been a conclusive resolution of that murder. As discussed in a post after my review of Killing Pilgrim there have been a series of theories on who killed Palme. I continue to think that it was Christer Pettersson, who was charged by the police and convicted before being freed on a successful appeal of his conviction.
Because of the potential extremist threat the Norwegian Security Services are involved. Billy T. expects they will be parsimonious with information they collect during their investigation.
One of the Security Services staff has a T-shirt with a perfect statement for describing an intelligence agent:
Bold black letters across the entire front of the gray T-
shirt declared “I’ve got your file.”
The Norwegian media have a significant role in the story. Little Letvik is a skilled and unscrupulous investigative reporter.
While described as a Hanne Wilhelmsen mystery it is really Billy T.’s book. Hanne does not make an appearance until almost 100 pages are gone. She is on leave in California with her partner, Cecilie. Hanne returns to Norway to aid Billy T. but stays in the background because she is not on duty.
A good book later became great when I was blind sided by a credible development concerning the gun.
The ending was as powerful and convincing a conclusion as I have read in a long time. For those who cannot forgive the past is never gone. I was left sad but very glad I had read the book.