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Blind Goddess

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Small-time drug dealer is found battered to death on the outskirts of Oslo. A young Dutchman, walking aimlessly in Oslo, covered i... Lire la suite
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Small-time drug dealer is found battered to death on the outskirts of Oslo. A young Dutchman, walking aimlessly in Oslo, covered in blood, is taken into custody but refuses to talk.

#8220;Get ready for a mystery that is packed solid with concise writing and intricate plotting…. Anne Holt is a consummate writer in the vein of Tana French, P.D. James and Peter Lovesey.”

Anne Holt, acclaimed author of the Hanne Wilhelmsen mysteries, has worked as a journalist and news anchor and spent two years working for the Oslo Police Department before founding her own law firm and serving as Norway’s Minister for Justice in 1996–1997. She lives in Oslo with her family.

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From the internationally acclaimed author of "1222" comes the suspenseful tour de force that started it all--the unforgettable debut of Inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen in a stunning literary skein of corruption, drugs, and murder.

The first book in Edgar-nominated Anne Holt’s international bestselling mystery series featuring detective Hanne Wilhelmsen, last seen in 1222.

A small-time drug dealer is found battered to death on the outskirts of the Norwegian capital, Oslo. A young Dutchman, walking aimlessly in central Oslo covered in blood, is taken into custody but refuses to talk. When he is informed that the woman who discovered the body, Karen Borg, is a lawyer, he demands her as his defender, although her specialty is civil, not criminal, law.

A couple of days later another lawyer is found shot to death. Soon police officers Håkon Sand and Hanne Wilhelmsen establish a link between the two killings. They also find a coded message hidden in the murdered lawyer’s apartment. Their maverick colleague in the drugs squad, Billy T., reports that a recent rumor in the drug underworld involves drug-dealing lawyers. Now the reason why the young Dutchman insisted on having Karen Borg as a defender slowly dawns on them: since she was the one to find and report the body, she is the only Oslo lawyer that cannot be implicated in the crime.

As the officers investigate, they uncover a massive network of corruption leading to the highest levels of government. As their lives are threatened, Hanne and her colleagues must find the killer and, in the process, bring the lies and deception out into the open.

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Blind Goddess


Police headquarters in Oslo, Grønlandsleiret, number 44. An address with no historical resonance; not like 19 Møllergata, the old police headquarters, and very different from Victoria Terrasse, with its grand government buildings. Number 44 Grønlandsleiret had a dreary ring to it, grey and modern, with a hint of public service incompetence and internal wranglings. A huge and slightly curved building, as if the winds had been too strong to withstand, it stood framed by a house of God on one side and a prison on the other, with an area of demolished housing on Enerhaugen at the rear, and only a broad expanse of grass fronting it as protection against the city’s most polluted and trafficky streets. The entrance was cheerless and forbidding, rather small in proportion to the two-hundred-metre length of the façade, squashed in obliquely, almost concealed, as if to make approach difficult, and escape impossible.

At half past nine on Monday morning Karen Borg, a lawyer, came walking up the incline of the paved path to this doorway. The distance was just far enough to make your clothes feel clammy. She was sure the hill must have been constructed deliberately so that everyone would enter Oslo police headquarters in a slight sweat.

She pushed against the heavy metal doors and went into the foyer. If she’d had more time, she’d have noticed the invisible barrier across the floor. Norwegians bound for foreign shores were queueing for their red passports on the sunny side of the enormous room. On the north side, packed in beneath the gallery, were the dark-skinned people, apprehensive, hands damp with perspiration after hours of waiting to be told their fate in the Police Immigration Department.

But Karen Borg was late. She cast a glance up to the gallery round the walls: blue doors and linoleum floor on one side, and yellow on the other, southern, side. On the west side two tunnel-like corridors in red and green disappeared into nothingness. The atrium extended seven floors in height. She would observe later how wasteful the design was: the offices themselves were tiny. When she was more familiar with the building she would discover that the important facilities were on the sixth floor: the commissioner’s office and the canteen. And above that, as invisible from the foyer as the Lord in His heaven, was the Special Branch.

“Like a kindergarten,” Karen Borg thought as she became aware of the colour coding. “It’s to make sure everyone finds their way to the right place.”

She was heading for the second floor, blue zone. The three lifts had conspired simultaneously to make her walk up the stairs. Having watched the floor indicators flash up and down for nearly five minutes without illuminating “Ground,” she had allowed herself to be persuaded.

She had the four-figure room number jotted on a slip of paper. The office was easy to find. The blue door was covered in paste marks where attempts had been made to remove things, but Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck had stubbornly resisted and were grinning at her with only half their faces and no legs. It would have looked better if they’d been left alone. Karen Borg knocked. A voice responded and she went in.

Håkon Sand didn’t appear to be in a good mood. There was an aroma of aftershave, and a damp towel lay over the only chair in the room apart from the one occupied by Sand himself. She could see his hair was wet.

He picked up the towel, threw it into a corner, and invited her to sit down. The chair was damp. She sat anyway.

Håkon Sand and Karen Borg were old friends who never saw each other. They always exchanged the customary pleasantries, like How are you, it’s been a long time, we must have dinner one day. A regular routine whenever they happened to meet, in the street or at the homes of mutual friends who were better at keeping in touch.

“I’m glad you came. Very pleased, in fact,” he said suddenly. It didn’t look like it. His smile of welcome was strained and tired after twenty-four hours on duty.

“The guy’s refusing to say anything at all. He just keeps repeating that he wants you as his lawyer.”

Karen Borg lit a cigarette. She defied all the warnings and smoked Prince Originals. The “Now I’m smoking Prince too” type, with maximum tar and nicotine and a frightening scarlet warning label from the Department of Health. No one cadged a smoke from Karen Borg.

“It ought to be easy enough to make him see that’s impossible. For one thing, I’m a witness in the case, since I was the one who found the body, and second, I’m not proficient in criminal law. I haven’t handled criminal cases since my exams. And that was seven years ago.”

“Eight,” he corrected her. “It’s eight years since we took our exams. You came third in our year, out of a hundred and fourteen candidates. I was fifth from the bottom. Of course you’re proficient in criminal law if you want to be.”

He was annoyed, and it was contagious. She was suddenly aware of the atmosphere that used to come between them when they were students. Her consistently glowing results were in stark contrast to his own stumbling progress towards the final degree exam that he would never even have scraped a pass in without her. She had pushed and coaxed and threatened him through it all, as if her own success would be easier to bear with this burden on her shoulders. For some reason which they could never fathom, perhaps because they’d never talked about it, they both felt she was the one who had the debt of gratitude to him, and not the other way round. It had irritated her ever since, this feeling of owing him something. Why they had been so inseparable throughout their student years was something nobody understood. They had never been lovers, never so much as a little necking when drunk, but a mismatched pair of friends, quarrelsome yet bound by a mutual concern that gave them an invulnerability to many of the vicissitudes of student life.

“And as for you being a witness, I don’t give a shit about that right now. What’s more important is to get the man to start talking. It’s obvious he won’t cooperate until he gets you as his defence counsel. We can think again about the witness stuff when we have to. That’ll be a good while yet.”

“The witness stuff.” His legal terminology had never been particularly precise, but even so Karen Borg found this grated on her. Håkon Sand was a police attorney, and his job was to uphold the law. Karen Borg wanted to go on believing the police took the law seriously.

“Can’t you talk to him anyway?”

“On one condition. You give me a credible explanation of how he knows who I am.”

“That was actually my fault.”

Håkon smiled with the same feeling of relief he’d had whenever she’d explained something he’d read ten times before without comprehending. He fetched two cups of coffee from the anteroom.

Then he told her the story of the young Dutch national whose only contact with working life—according to reports so far—had been drug trafficking in Europe. How this Dutchman, now sitting as tight-lipped as a clam waiting for Karen Borg in one of the toughest billets in Norway, the custody cells in Oslo police headquarters, knew exactly who Karen Borg was—a thirty-five-year-old very successful commercial lawyer totally unknown to the general public.


*  *  *

“Bravo Two-Zero calling Zero-One!”

“Zero-One to Bravo Two-Zero, go ahead.”

The police officer spoke in hushed tones, as if he were expecting a confidential secret. Far from it. He was on duty in the operations room. It was a large open space with a shelved floor in which raised voices were taboo, decisiveness a virtue, and economy of expression vital. The duty shift of uniformed officers sat perched above the theatre floor, with an enormous map on the opposite wall to chart the scene of the main action, the city of Oslo itself. The room was as centrally positioned in the police headquarters building as it could be, with not a single window looking out onto the restless Saturday evening. The city night made its presence felt in other ways: by radio contact with the patrol cars and a supportive 002 number for the assistance of the public of Oslo in their moments of greater or lesser need.

“There’s a man sitting in the road on Bogstadsveien. We can’t get anything out of him, his clothes are covered in blood, but he doesn’t look injured. No ID. He’s not putting up any resistance, but he’s obstructing the traffic. We’re bringing him in.”

“Okay, Bravo Two-Zero. Report when you’re back on patrol. Received Zero-One. Over and out.”


*  *  *

Half an hour later the suspect was standing at the reception desk. His clothes were certainly bloody: Bravo Two-Zero had been right about that. A young rookie was searching him. With his unmarked blue epaulettes lacking even a single stripe as insurance against all the vilest jobs, he was terrified of so much possibly HIV-infected blood. Protected by rubber gloves, he pulled the open leather jacket off the arrested man. Only then did he see that his T-shirt had originally been white. His denim jeans were covered in blood too, and he had a general air of self-neglect.

“Name and address,” said the duty officer, glancing up wearily over the counter.

The suspect didn’t reply. He just stared longingly at the packet of cigarettes the young officer was shoving into a brown paper bag together with a gold ring and a bunch of keys tied with a nylon cord. The desire for a smoke was the only sign that could be read in his face, and even that disappeared when his eyes shifted away from the paper bag to the duty officer. He was standing nearly a metre away from the policeman, behind a strong metal barrier that came up to his hips. The barrier was shaped like a horseshoe, with both ends fixed into the concrete floor, half a metre from the high wooden counter, quite wide in itself, over which projected the nose and thinning grey hair of the police officer.

“Personal details, please! Name! Date of birth?”

The anonymous man smiled, but not in the least derisively. It was more an expression of gentle sympathy with the exhausted policeman, as if he wanted to indicate that it was nothing personal. He had no intention of saying anything at all, so why not just put him in a cell and have done with it? The smile was almost friendly, and he held it unwaveringly, in silence. The duty officer misunderstood. Needless to say.

“Put the bugger in a cell. Number four’s empty. I’ve had enough of his insolent attitude.”

The man made no protest, but went along willingly to cell number four. There were pairs of shoes in the corridor outside every cell. Well-worn shoes of all sizes, like door nameplates announcing the occupants. He must have automatically assumed the regulation would also apply to him, because he kicked off his trainers and stood them neatly outside the door without being asked.

The cell was about three metres by two, bleak and dreary. Floor and walls were a dull yellow, with a noticeable absence of graffiti. The only slight advantage he was immediately aware of in these surroundings, so far removed from the comforts of a hotel, was that his hosts were obviously not sparing with the electricity. The light was dazzling, and the temperature in the little room must have been at least twenty-five degrees Celsius.

Just inside the door there was a sort of latrine; it could hardly be called a lavatory. It was a construction of low walls with a hole in the middle. The moment he saw it, he felt his bowels knotting up in constipation.

The lack of any inscriptions on the walls by previous guests didn’t mean there were no traces of frequent habitation. Even though he was far from freshly showered himself, he felt quite queasy when the unpleasant odour hit him. A mixture of piss and excrement, sweat and anxiety, fear and anger: it permeated the walls, evidently impossible to eradicate. Because apart from the structure designed to receive urine and faeces, which was beyond all hope of cleansing, the room was actually clean. It was probably swilled out every day.

He heard the bolt slam in the door behind him. Through the bars he could hear the man in the next cell continuing where the duty officer had given up.

“Hey, you, I’m Robert. What’s your name? Why’ve the pigs got you?”

Robert had no luck either. Eventually he had to admit defeat too, just as frustrated as the duty officer.

“Bastard,” he muttered after several minutes of trying, loud enough for the message to get through to its intended recipient.

There was a platform built into the end of the room. With a certain amount of goodwill it might perhaps be described as a bed. There was no mattress, and no blanket lying around anywhere. Well, that was okay, he was already sweating profusely in the heat. The nameless man folded up his leather jacket to make a pillow, lay with his bloody side downwards, and went to sleep.


*  *  *

When Police Attorney Håkon Sand came on duty at five past ten on Sunday morning, the unknown prisoner was still asleep. Håkon didn’t know that. He had a hangover, which he shouldn’t have had. Feelings of remorse were making his uniform shirt stick to his body. He was already running his finger under his collar as he came through the CID area towards the police lawyers’ office. Uniforms were crap. At the beginning, all the legal specialists in the prosecution service were fascinated by them—they would stand in front of the mirror at home admiring themselves, stroking the insignia of rank on the epaulettes: one stripe, one crown, and one star for inspector, a star that might become two or even three depending on whether you stuck it out long enough to become a chief inspector or superintendent. They would smile at the mirror, straighten their shoulders involuntarily, note that their hair needed cutting, and feel clean and tidy. But after an hour or two at work they would realise that the acrylic made them smell and their shirt collars were much too stiff and made sore red weals round their necks.

The chief inspector’s duty was the worst of the lot. But everyone wanted it. The job was usually boring, and intolerably tiring. Sleep was forbidden; a rule most of them broke with a foul, unwashed woollen blanket pulled up over their uniforms. But night duty was well paid. Every legally qualified officer with one year’s service got roughly one duty a month, which put an extra fifty thousand kroner a year in their pay-packets. It was worth it. The big drawback was that the shift began at three o’clock in the afternoon after a full working day, and as soon as it was over at eight the next morning you had to start on a normal working day again. At weekends the duties were divided up into twenty-four-hour shifts, which made them even more lucrative.

Sand’s predecessor was impatient. Even though the shift, according to the rules, should change at nine, there was an unspoken agreement that the Sunday duty officer could come in an hour later. The person being relieved would always be drumming their heels. As indeed was the blonde female inspector today.

“Everything you need to know is in the log,” she said. “There’s a copy of the murder case from Friday night on the desk. There’s always a lot to do on this duty. I’ve completed fourteen reports already, and two Clause Eleven decisions.”

The devil she had. With the best will in the world Håkon Sand couldn’t see that he was any more competent to make decisions about care proceedings than the child care authorities’ own staff. Yet the police always had to sort things out when a juvenile caused bureaucratic inconvenience by needing help outside normal office hours. Two on Saturday, which meant statistically none on Sunday. He could but hope.

“And it’s full out the back; you’d better make your round as soon as you can,” she added.

He took the keys, fumbling as he attached them to his belt. The cashbox contained what it should. The number of passport forms was also correct. The log was up to date.

Formalities completed, he decided to go and collect some fines straight away, now that Sunday morning had laid its cold but calming hand on last night’s revellers. Before going, he flipped through the papers on the desk. He’d heard about the murder on the radio news bulletin. A badly mutilated body had been discovered down by the River Aker. The police had no leads. Empty words, he’d thought. The police always have some leads, it’s just that they’re all too often very scanty.

The photo file from the scene-of-crime people hadn’t been added yet, of course. But there were a few Polaroids lying loose in the green folder. They were grotesque enough. Håkon never got used to photographs of the dead. He’d seen plenty of them in his five years in the force, the last three attached to Homicide, A.2.11. All suspicious deaths were reported to the police, and entered on the computer under the code “susp.” Suspicious death was a broad concept. He’d seen bodies that were burnt, deaths from exhaust fumes, stab wounds, bullets, drowning, or torture. Even the tragic elderly folk who were only victims of the crime of neglect, found when a neighbour in the flat below noticed an unpleasant odour in the dining room, looked up and saw a damp patch on the ceiling, and rang the police in indignation at the damage—even those poor devils were input as “susp” and had the dubious honour of having their final photographs taken postmortem. Håkon had seen green corpses, blue corpses, red, yellow, and multicoloured corpses, and the pretty pink carbon monoxide bodies whose souls had been able to endure no more of this world’s vale of tears.

The Polaroids were stronger stuff than most of what he’d seen before, though. He threw them down abruptly. As if to forget them as soon as he could, he grabbed the report of the findings. He carried it over to the uncomfortable “Stressless” posture chair, a cheap imitation-leather version of the flagship model from Ekornes, much too curved in the back, lacking support where the lumbar region needed it most.

The bare facts had been typed up in a style that could hardly have been more unhelpful. Håkon furrowed his brow in annoyance. They said the admission criteria for the Police Training College were getting steadily higher. Ability in written presentation was obviously not one of them.

He came to a halt near the end of the page.

“Present at the scene of the crime was witness Karen Borg. She found the deceased while walking her dog. There was vomit on the body. Witness Borg said it was hers.”

Borg’s address and occupation confirmed that it was Karen. He ran his fingers through his hair, regretting not having washed it that morning. He decided to phone Karen during the week. With pictures as gruesome as that, the body must have been an awful sight. He absolutely must ring her.

He replaced the file on the desk and closed it. His eyes dwelt for a moment on the name label at the top left: Sand/Kaldbakken/Wilhelmsen. The case was his, as prosecuting attorney. Kaldbakken was the chief inspector responsible, and Hanne Wilhelmsen the investigating detective.

It was time to sort out the fines.

There was a thick bundle of arrest sheets in the little wooden box. A full house. He skimmed quickly through the forms. Mainly drunks. One wife abuser, one obvious mental case who would have to be transferred to Ullevål Hospital later in the day, and a known and wanted criminal. The last three could stay where they were. He would take the drunks in turn. The point of fining them was admittedly rather unclear to him. The majority of the tickets ended up in the nearest litter bin. The few that were paid were charged to the Social Services. A merry-go-round of public money that made a contribution to employment of some sort, but could hardly be regarded as particularly rational.

One set of arrest forms remained. It had no name on it.

“What’s this?”

He turned to the custody officer, an overweight man in his fifties who would never achieve more than the three stripes he had on his shoulders, stripes no one could deny him: they were awarded for age rather than merit. Håkon had realised long ago that the man was a dimwit.

“A nutter. He was in here when I came on duty. Bastard. Refused to give his name and address.”

“What’s he done?”

“Nothing. Found sitting in the road somewhere or other. Covered in blood. You can fine the sod for not giving his name. And for breach of the peace. And for being a scumbag.”

After five years in the force Sand had learnt to count to ten. He counted to twenty this time. He didn’t want to have a row just because of an imbecile in uniform who couldn’t see that taking a person’s liberty involved a certain responsibility.

Cell number four. He took a warder with him. The man with no name was awake. He stared at them with a despondent face, and was obviously in some doubt about their intentions. He sat up on the bed stiffly and spoke his first words in police custody.

“Could I have a drink?”

The language he spoke was Norwegian and yet at the same time not Norwegian. Håkon couldn’t put his finger on it; it sounded accurate, but there was something not quite right. Could he be a Swede trying to speak Norwegian?

He was given a drink, of course. Cola, bought by Håkon Sand with his own money. He even got a shower. And a clean T-shirt and trousers. From Sand’s own cupboard in the office. The custody officer’s grumbling at the special treatment grew louder with every item. But Håkon Sand ordered the bloodstained clothes to be put in a bag, explaining as he locked the heavy metal doors behind him:

“These articles could be important evidence!”


*  *  *

The young man was certainly taciturn. A searing thirst after many hours in an overheated cell may have loosened his tongue, but it soon became clear that his need to communicate was extremely temporary. Having quenched his thirst, he reverted to silence.

He was sitting on a hard spindleback chair. Strictly speaking there was only space for two chairs in the eight-square-metre room, which also housed a solid and rather stately double filing cabinet, three rows of ugly painted-steel bookshelves full of ring-binders arranged by colour, and a desk. This was fixed to the wall with metal brackets, so that the desktop was on a slant. That’s how it had been ever since the medical officer had had the idea of subjecting the staff to an ergonomics therapist. Sloping work desks were supposed to be good for the back. No one understood why, and most of them had found that their spinal problems were exacerbated by all the groping around on the floor for the things that slid off the desk. With an extra chair in the room it was hardly possible to move about without shifting the furniture.

The office belonged to Hanne Wilhelmsen. She was strikingly attractive, and newly promoted to Inspector. After coming out top of her year from police college, she had spent ten years at Oslo police headquarters marking herself out as a policewoman perfectly designed for an advertising campaign. Everyone spoke well of Hanne Wilhelmsen, a unique achievement in a workplace where ten percent of the day was spent running down your colleagues. She deferred to superiors without being branded an arse-licker, yet was not afraid to voice her opinions. She was loyal to the system, but would put forward suggestions for improvement that were usually sound enough to be implemented. Hanne Wilhelmsen had the intuition that only one in a hundred police officers has, the fingertip sensitivity that tells you when to coax and trick a suspect, and when to threaten and thump the table.

She was respected and admired, and well deserved it. But even so there was no one in that big grey building who really knew her. She always went to the annual departmental Christmas parties, to the summer party, and to birthday celebrations, was a fantastic dancer, would talk about the job and smile sweetly at everyone, and would go home ten minutes after the first person had left, neither too early nor too late. She never got drunk, and so never made a fool of herself. And no one ever got any closer to knowing her.

Hanne Wilhelmsen was at ease with herself and the world, but had dug a deep moat between her professional life and her private life. She didn’t have a single friend in the police force. She loved another woman, a defect in this otherwise perfect human being, the public admission of which she was convinced would destroy everything she had spent so many years building up. A swing of her long dark-brown hair was enough to deflect any questions about the slim wedding ring that was the only jewellery she wore. She had been given the ring by her partner when they first moved in together at the age of nineteen. There were rumours, as there always are. But she was so pretty. So womanly. And the female doctor that a friend of someone’s friend vaguely knew, and that others had seen Hanne with several times, was also very beautiful. They were really feminine women. So there couldn’t be any truth in it. Anyway Hanne always wore a skirt the few times she had to dress in uniform, and hardly anyone did that, since trousers were so much more practical. The rumours were just malicious nonsense.

Thus she lived her life, in the knowledge that what is not confirmed is never regarded as actually true; but this made it even more important for Hanne to perform well in her job than for anyone else in the building. Perfection was her shield. Which was how she wanted it, and since she had absolutely no ambition to elbow her way to the top, but was only interested in doing a good job, there was no jealousy or envy to threaten her defences.

She smiled now at Håkon, who had seated himself in the extra chair.

“Don’t you trust me to ask the right questions?”

“Relax. No worries on that score. But I have a feeling we’re on to something bigger here. As I said, if you don’t mind too much, I’d rather like just to sit in on the interview.

“It’s not against the rules,” he added quickly.

He knew she insisted on following the statutory procedures whenever possible, and he respected her for it. It was unusual for a police attorney to attend the questioning of a suspect, but it wasn‘t precluded. He’d done the same before on occasion. Usually to study the technique, but sometimes because he was particularly involved in a case. Normally the police officers didn’t object to the presence of the prosecution staff. On the contrary, provided he kept a low profile and didn’t interfere in the interrogation, most of them seemed quite pleased.

As if at a given signal, they both turned towards the prisoner. Hanne Wilhelmsen put her right arm on the desk and let her long lacquered nails play on the keys of an old electric typewriter. It was an IBM golf ball machine, very advanced in its time. Now it lacked the e, which was so worn that it produced only a smudged black mark from the ribbon when you hit the key. It didn’t really matter, since it was quite obvious what the smudge should be.

“It’ll be a long day if you’re just going to sit there and say nothing.”

Her voice was gentle, almost indulgent.

“I get paid for this. Chief Inspector Sand gets paid. You on the other hand will just carry on being held here. Sooner or later we might let you go. Wouldn’t you like to make it sooner?”

For the first time the young man seemed less confident.

“My name is Han van der Kerch,” he said, after a few minutes’ further silence. “I’m Dutch, but I’m residing in the country le...

Informations sur le produit

Titre: Blind Goddess
Code EAN: 9781451634761
ISBN: 978-1-4516-3476-1
Format: Couverture cartonnée
Editeur: Simon & Schuster N.Y.
Genre: Romans policiers, thrillers et horreur
nombre de pages: 352
Poids: 279g
Taille: H204mm x B134mm x T22mm
Année: 2012
Auflage: Original.