Friday, January 29, 2016

Review of Dregs by Jorn Lier Horst (Sandstone, 2011; Norwegian 2010)

Midsummer in Stavern, Norway, and a severed left foot wearing a running shoe is washed up on the shore. Shortly afterwards another severed left foot is discovered. Chief Inspector William Wisting is placed in charge of the case. His team quickly make a connection between the feet and four elderly people that disappeared months ago, but cannot identify a reason for their disappearance or why their feet are now suddenly appearing. Wisting’s boss has applied for promotion and wants a quick result and plenty of media coverage. In contrast the detective wants a careful examination and surety, but with the pressure rising he tries to quickly discover clues that will reveal why the victims were killed and the identity of the killer.

Dregs is a straightforward police procedural that is very much in the Scandinavian style – a relatively dour detective, an understated narrative with close attention to detail, and realist in its depiction of police work and society. The plot works at the level of carefully revealing the solving of a puzzle rather than being driven by action and tension. Dregs starts at a relatively sedate pace, slowing moving pieces into place, and it’s only as the telling progresses that the extent of the puzzle and intricacies of the plot is revealed. The result is an intriguing tale, with a nice denouement and explanation concerning the discovery of four severed feet that sit at the heart of the story. There is also a strong sub-plot in which the main detective’s journalist daughter is writing a feature about six people who have been released from prison after serving a sentence for murder, which sets out some interesting questions about justifiable homicide and regimes of punishment. 

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