Odd Numbers is the ninth in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series and takes place more than eleven years after she has left the force. There was this uncanny discomfort reading this book while the news is filled with the news of bombing in Manchester because this is about a series of bombings in Norway, with self-proclaimed Muslim terrorists claiming credit. But that is not Hanne’s case. She’s left that behind with her former colleagues who are working the case around the clock.
Hanne is working on cold cases as a police consultant with a brilliant, though under-appreciated police officer Henrik Holme who is going to deserve a series of his own. A young girl went missing back in 1996 and the two of them both notice a glaring oversight in the investigation that leads them to investigating an assault that happened that same day. Both the assault and disappearance are unsolved.
Meanwhile her former police partner and friend Billy T is desperately investigating his own son Linus, afraid he might be somewhat involved in the bombing. There is also another bomb and more messages from the terrorists, all building tension as the 17th of May celebration approaches. Of course, every time May 17th is mentioned in the book, I think of that ditty from childhood, “Syttende mai, the day a thousand Swedes ran through the weeds chased by one Norwegian” according to the Sons of Norway and scoffed at by Swedes who like to remind them they lost in 1814.
Odd Numbers is scrupulously fair, giving readers all the connections that Hanne and Henrik use to solve those cold cases and provide critical information for the current terrorism investigation that roils Norway in the weeks leading up to syttende mai. The debates are similar to those we have in the United States, though in many ways more responsible. Norway suffered an unspeakable mass murder in 2011 when Anders Breivik, inspired in part by American rightwing extremists Daniel Pipes and Pamela Gellar, murdered seventy-seven people, mostly teens at a youth camp. The effects of that attack are felt throughout this book.
I usually avoid books about terrorism, particularly Islamist terrorism, as they are rife with ignorance, written by people exploiting islamophobia and xenophobic hatreds. This is the anti-hatred book. Holt is too intelligent and rational to fall into that trap. This is a humane, rational book and recognizes that dangers come from extremists on all sides, right, left, Muslim and Christian, foreign and nationalist.
The plot is complex and falls slowly into place. It is really very well done.