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Fear Not by Anne Holt

Fear Not (2009)

by Anne Holt

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English (6)  Dutch (4)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  All languages (13)
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There is a perfectly good English translation of this book out there, but I read this version because I desperately need to practise my German. Hard to explain – but I really love reading books in a foreign language. You get the whole thing in slow-motion and it’s somehow intensified. It works particularly well with a book like this which creates many mysteries and leaves solving them to the very end. For the last week, while I read the final chapters, me, this book and my dictionary have been inseparable.

Sometimes it was a difficult experience – there are some notable information dumps, lengthy discourses on the subject of hate groups or police procedure punctuated only by repetitive references to characters taking a deep breath. But otherwise it was a very enjoyable read. It created a fascinating word in which women are mostly clever and resourceful, and men are buffoons who may well get lost on the way to the loo. There are so many characters – everyone can like at least one of them.

It was interesting that emails and letters written by an American character are represented in English with no translation offered. All readers are assumed to understand it. Quite humbling really: would an English book expect to get away with great chunks of untranslated German or Norwegian? I don’t think so.

It has taken me six months to read this and it has become part of my life...I feel quite bereft without it. I really must read more of this series – preferably in German. ( )
  jayne_charles | Dec 29, 2014 |
Es gibt eine ganze Reihe von Morden in Bergen und Oslo - oder besser Toten. Eine ermordete Bischöfin, ein toter Asylbewerber der aus dem Wasser gefischt wird, eine heroinsüchtige junge Frau stürzt aus dem Fenster, ihr Bruder wird in einem Park niedergeschlagen und noch ein, zwei mehr. Wer den Klappentext zuvor nicht gelesen hat, wird keinerlei Verbindungen erkennen, erste Anhaltspunkte tauchen ab der Mitte des Buches auf. Dort wird eine ominöse "Gruppe 25" eher beiläufig eingeführt, religiöse Fanatiker deren Ziel die Tötung einer bestimmten 'Art' Menschen ist. Doch erst nach 3/4 der Lektüre werden die Zusammenhänge klarer erkennbar, die zwischen all den Toten und dieser Gruppe bestehen. Bis dahin laufen die Ermittlungen unabhängig voneinander, wobei Kommissar Yngvar Stubø aufgrund der Brisanz des Falles in Bergen ermittelt, um dort den Mord an der Bischöfin aufzuklären. Insgesamt gibt es sicherlich sieben bis acht unterschiedliche Handlungsstränge, die mehr oder weniger zusammenhanglos nebeneinanderher laufen, bis dann im letzten Viertel des Buches sich alles ineinander fügt wie die Teile eines großen Puzzles (wobei das ein oder andere Teil übrigbleibt).

Gotteszahl war mein erstes Buch von Anne Holt und vermutlich auch nicht mein letztes. Denn eines steht fest: Frau Holt kann schreiben. Und zwar in dem Sinne, dass man es lesen möchte. Doch nach dem Lesen der letzten Seite bin ich mir immer noch unschlüssig: War das nun wirklich brilliant oder eher langatmig und zäh? Denn die typischen Eigenarten eines Krimis sind in diesem Buch nicht zu finden: Man fiebert vor Aufregung, wen erwischt es als Nächstes? Ist der/die ErmittlerIn auf der richtigen Spur? Liege ich mit meinem Verdacht richtig?

Vielleicht sollte man ein neues Genre einführen: Roman mit krimihaftem Charakter - dafür gibt es auch 4 Sterne :-) ( )
  Xirxe | Dec 2, 2014 |
This book has Casualty syndrome, as - to a lesser extent - do some of the others in this series. You start getting to know perfectly nice separate bunches of characters, and just as you develop a soft spot for them, you hear about something horrible happening to them or their family.

2 paragraphs about themes, on the verge of needing a spoiler tag:
Fear Not features another fantastically elaborate series of only-in-fiction murders. One of Holt's pet themes (which I don't have a gripe with, other than in its repetition) is malign influences from America invading European societies. The villainy here is along the lines of: what if Westboro Baptist Church had got in league with some low-key muslim fundamentalists and employed ex-marines? 'What if there were flying spiders?' I remember thinking as a kid; lots of unpleasantness rolled up into one thing, multiplying it - but not quite real. A country with one of the lowest rates of religious belief in the world wouldn't be high on the list of targets for fundie hate groups, but some sensationalist and intricate plotting eventually explains why.

The previous Vik & Stubø novels each had specific social and political themes. Here it is that, whilst urban middle class gay people can now live openly and safely in mainstream society, there are still dark corners of homophobia in existence even though it's easy to live with the impression 'these things don't happen to people like us/our friends now'. A theme which strikes a particular chord because a number of LGB friends find life pretty comfortable these days - but another, not connected to them, was, this same decade, killed in a homophobic attack. He rarely saw the need to hide that side of himself these days either. I thought about him and what happened to him quite a lot whilst reading this book.

There are various clumsy bits in the novel - a daft quantity of coincidences, and, especially, one character whose actions conflicted with his other traits to a rather unbelievable extent - but given the what's evoked by the theme, I can't rate it based on these faults. Family scenes can be cloying at times, but I'm prepared to believe some of that's me being bitter as much as the book being slushy.

For a while, I've had a feeling that the world in contemporary Norwegian novels and films is that bit more comfortable than in those from Sweden and Denmark, even bordering on decadent. It may not be wise to look for the imprint of of the current affairs of a foreign country in something so intangible as the atmosphere of a novel, but here it's quite clear - there's even material about public spending:

Then came the financial crisis. And all those billions in public money. Certain branches of Norwegian research were drowned in funds. Since the police were included in the many initiatives aimed at keeping the wheels moving and preventing economic collapse, Johanne found herself with four times as much money at her disposal as a few weeks before...
When the financial crisis hit the whole world in the autumn of 2008, it didn’t have the same effect in Norway as in many other countries. With billions in the bank, the Red-Green coalition government introduced the sort of expensive counter-measures that few could have imagined a few months earlier. Norway had been pumping money out of the North Sea for so long that it seemed more or less fireproof after the financial collapse in the United States.
(Although, as the following sentences say, there was still some recession in the housing and building sectors. And, as is shown later, some kids are just too messed up and abused for even some of the best run social services in the world to be able to help them.)

I haven't quite warmed to Johanne Vik - this character needs more emotional notes than anxiety, anxiety and anxiety, for goodness sake. But there is something nice about "getting to know" people through the course of a series (and now I understand that exclamation from another world "I need a new series!" sometimes seen in recommendation requests). I also realised I'd judged Vik too harshly before. I don't tend to read novels like this when at my most alert - had thought she was trained in psychology because she was a criminal profiler, and she seemed an unconvincing representation of a psychologist given the lack of psychological terms and concepts in her thinking, and her low awareness about her effects on her partner. Wronggg! She trained in law, and good instincts and natural talent set her on this career path.

There's an interesting up and coming detective, Silje Sørenson, here and in the previous novel. Given that no.5 is to be the last Vik & Stubo novel, I wouldn't be surprised if Sørenson becomes the lead character for a new series. In some ways she might be a bit too perfect for some readers: very good looking, if short, and from a wealthy family who weren't keen on her joining the police at first - but her zeal for the job and to sort out the stack of neglected cases is just wonderful if you've ever delighted in being a new broom.

The epilogue is terribly sweet and reminded me vividly why, as a child, I'd been religious. So much is in how you tell the stories. It's a version of Jesus you'd want to believe in, and Bishop Eva Lysgaard's God sounds very much like what we in the UK heard as Rowan Williams'.
  antonomasia | Sep 22, 2014 |
The fourth, and most successful, of the Vik/Stubo novels opens as a young girl wanders around Oslo city at night, drifting onto the tram tracks while lost in her imaginary world. As the trolley bears down on her, a man sweeps her up, saving her life. At the same time, the distraught mother comes rushing out of a nearby hotel, grabs her daughter and slaps the rescuer's face.

The woman is Johanne Vik, who has been attending her sister's wedding. Her daughter tells her that "the lady" is dead. Johanne thinks Kristina is confused and means the babysitter she employed to watch the girl during the late wedding party, but of course, the child is not that misguided, as later becomes apparent.

The story shifts to the tales of various characters - a woman priest is shockingly murdered, stabbed while out on a walk one night. Adam Stubo of the national crime investigation squad and Johanne's partner, is bought in to help the investigation, gently probing the priest's catatonic husband and grown-up son to find an explanation for this apparently deranged and illogical crime. The decomposed body of a young man or boy is found in the river, which forms a separate plot thread. In this mix is a self-made industrialist, whose story we slowly learn and who we gradually realise is intimately involved in these and other apparently unrelated crimes that are leaving the police confused.

It is Johanne, still officially on maternity leave, who instinctively begins to connect the dots. In the middle of the book, in a somewhat artificial but fascinating side-section, she meets with an old American friend from her days with the FBI. Together the two women talk about hate crime, and Johanne (who is writing a thesis on the topic) begins to piece together the motivation for the current crime wave and the threat she perceives to her daughter.

This is an excellent book - in a couple of the previous novels in this series, the author has left things hanging in the air a bit at the end. This is not the case here. FEAR NOT is a fully rounded novel that addresses the terrorist and fanatical elements that plague our contemporary society, but elects to do so in an intelligent and engaging manner rather than by indulging in melodramatics. Having said this, the book is certainly not a dull lecture; to the contrary it provides plenty of conundrums that do eventually turn out to have plausible solutions. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, not least for its contemporary relevance in terms of its treatment of hate-inspired crimes, and very much look forward to the author's next. ( )
  Hanneri | Mar 31, 2013 |
I recently finished Anne Holt’s 2009 novel, Fear Not, translated by the always excellent Marlaine Delargy. What a fun ride, blending a puzzling plot with serious social issues. When the bishop of Bergen is stabbed to death late at night at Christmastime, her husband and son seem able or unwilling to explain why she was alone at night outdoors. Adam Stubo tries to sort out the high-profile case, unaware of the related cases unfolding around him. Because the deaths are explained as suicides or drug overdoses or inexplicable but unremarkable acts of violence visited on people on the margins, nobody connects the dots until Stubo’s wife, Johanne Vik, meets with an American friend who fills her in on a new kind of hate crime.

This is a deeply involving novel with a big cast of characters whose stories are skillfully interwoven. As in the preceding book in the series, Death in Oslo, things hinge on a coincidence of sorts, but it’s not at all hard to go with the story, which is absorbing. One interesting technique Holt uses is connecting each new scene with the previous one with a phrase, an image, or a thought. I began to enjoy looking for these little narrative hook-and-eye features. Another feature that seems a common thread in her books is the uncovering of a conspiracy, which in this case is fairly fanciful but an interesting way to think through the implications of religious fervor and bigotry. The final pages include a touching, if unusual, alternative depiction of religious faith. I thoroughly enjoyed this complex and well-plotted mystery.
  bfister | Nov 17, 2012 |
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A drug addict dead in a basement, a young asylum seeker floating in the harbour, a high profile female bishop stabbed to death in the street. What is the connection? During a snowy Christmas season in Norway, criminal psychologist and profiler Inger Johanne Vik finds not only her husband and herself but also her autistic daughter drawn into the investigation of a number of disturbing deaths. Her husband, detective Yngvar Stubo, has been dispatched to Bergen to investigate the shocking Christmas Eve murder of a local female bishop. Meanwhile, in Oslo, bodies keep turning up, though the causes of death vary. Before long, Inger Johanne will discover something that will link them all.… (more)

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