`Odd Numbers’ shows Anne Holt’s storytelling at its finest

This cover image released by Scribner shows "Odd Numbers," by Anne Holt.
This cover image released by Scribner shows "Odd Numbers," by Anne Holt. AP

Anne Holt’s finely constructed novels continue to pull back the curtain on Norwegian society as seen through the eyes of insightful police detective Hanne Wilhelmsen.

In “Odd Numbers,” Holt skillfully melds terrorism and parental issues in an absorbing compact plot. This ninth novel featuring Hanne maintains high suspense while emphasizing the myriad characters’ personalities.

Wheelchair-bound since she was shot in the spine by a deranged cop, Hanne lives a quiet, if unfulfilling life, with her wife, Nefis, a Turkish Muslim, and their inquisitive 10-year-old daughter, Ida. Despite her mobility issues and depression, Hanne has decided to return to the Oslo police force on the same day she is visited by Billy Thorvald, her friend and former police partner. Billy T. – as he is known – is worried that his son, Linus Bakken, has gotten involved with a fundamentalist group. During the conversation, a bomb explodes in the nearby National Council for Islam in Norway, killing 23 people. The council was a moderate group, but the bombing spurs anti-Islamic propaganda from Norway’s right-wing party and from radical groups bragging about the explosion. As Billy tries to find out his son’s secrets, Hanne investigates an old murder with detective Henrik Holme.

Holt illustrates Oslo’s multicultural society while showing the humanity behind hate that can lead to terrorism. “Odd Numbers” also shows parents trying to do the right thing, but not always succeeding. Billy T. hasn’t been the best parent – six children by almost as many women – and not very involved with any of them. But fears about Linus’ activities finally push Billy into acting like a real father. Hanne has her own parental issues as Ida has many questions about her mothers, religion and society.

“Odd Numbers” shows Holt’s storytelling at its finest.

“Odd Numbers”

By Anne Holt (Scribner), translated from the Norwegian by Anne Bruce