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the cabin

10 august 2022

Jørn Lier Horst's Cabin is a well-constructed police procedural, if you can get past two central absurdities. These flaws are so glaring that one can't overlook them, though. You keep waiting for them to blow up in Chief Inspector William Wisting's face, and they inevitably do – when a mild dose of precaution would have fended them off completely. But the mystery in the novel is just the right level of complicated and murky, and the solution admirably clear. The flaws are the price of admission to an otherwise acceptable entertainment.

It is not really a spoiler to identify those flaws, since they come up fairly early in the story. Wisting is summoned to a hush-hush meeting with a high higher-up. Ten million dollars, he's told, have been found in cardboard boxes in the summer cabin of a (naturally-deceased) former Cabinet minister. Why? Wisting is put in charge of a secret investigation; he must work only with a small trusted circle of aides. One of them will be his own daughter, a freelance journalist who can ask the kinds of prying questions that police could not. Meanwhile the money, for some reason, can't be stowed anywhere high-security. Wisting has to keep it in his basement.

Add in the facts that Line is well-known to be the eminent Inspector's daughter – and that she is the single mother of a two-year-old – and that somebody torches the politician's cabin shortly after Wisting extracts and hides the money – and you have the Krimi equivalent of an explosion ready to go off at any moment. And for no reason. Just secure the money and leave the daughter out of it, and you'd have a normal investigation. The suspense, while certainly present, is more than a little contrived.

But the main plot, as I said, has several interesting strands that at first you can't imagine coming together. The mystery of the ten million intersects with two others: a decades-old heist from an airport, still unsolved; and the equally unsolved disappearance of a young fisherman from the woods near the politician's cabin, at about the same long-ago juncture.

The heist seems connected to organized crime, naturally; the disappearance, a banal drowning. What either would have to do with each other, or with a prominent politician, is beyond guessing at first, but Wisting reconstructs the factual details of the case and puts together a plausible psychological rationale for the dead leader's involvement. While putting his daughter and granddaughter in grave danger that, at key moments, he seems to discount. Well, you gotta have some excitement in a "Thriller," after all.

Horst, Jørn Lier. The Cabin. [Det innerste rommet, 2018.] Translated by Anne Bruce. London: Penguin [Penguin Random House], 2019.