Monday, 14 December 2020


Tom Kerr is a serial killer. He has been in prison for four years, and could be facing permanent renewals of his original sentence which would keep him there for life. But he has confessed to a fellow inmate that he killed a third victim, and when that inmate deals his knowledge to the authorities, and Kerr is confronted, he agrees he will direct them to Taran Norum’s grave in exchange for a transfer to a more hospitable prison facility.

Since the killing, and the purported burial site, are in William Wisting’s district, he is put in nominal command of the security in the area. And his daughter Line, with the making a documentary film in mind, is hired by Adrian Stiller, of Kripos, the national police investigators to make a video record of the expedition.

But Kerr escapes, out-smarting the police at every turn. And at the same time, the body of another murdered woman turns out, killed in the same way as Kerr’s victims. It was assumed Kerr had an accomplice in his killings, known as the Other One, and the fear is that he is active, and he has aided Kerr’s escape, putting two killers on the loose. Not only must Wisting find the killer or killers, but he has to hurry, as the blame is being dropped on his shoulders, and his old nemesis, Terje Nordbo of Internal Affairs, thinks this time he has Wisting wrapped up.

The strength of Jorn Lier Horst’s Wisting novels, of which this is the third, is his plotting. They are police procedurals where the procedure is placed in the forefront, and the reader gets an understanding of how information is gathered and better, how the investigator makes sense of it, puts its pieces into the jigsaw puzzle of the crime. The Inner Darkness has a complex plot, as the searches for Kerr and the Other One intertwine (and you will be forgiven if it takes two tries, as it did me, to identify the accomplice). In many of the great Scandinavian police procedurals, going right back to Martin Beck, the plotting within the police force itself is equally gripping, the internal politics and of course here, with Wisting going up against Nordbo and Internal Affairs, it is central. Nordbo holds most of the cards, Wisting’s only avenue to clearing himself if to solve the case.

Wisting is an interesting character, but one who gives little away. As played by Sven Nordin in the television series, he is expressive, but keeps most of his thought processes to himself, almost to the point of passivity. This is common to Scandinavian police novels—there are few hot-headed cops in lead roles. Line, who reminds one of Linda Wallander, is Wisting’s foil: sharp, impulsive and heart on the sleeve, again played very well by Thea Greeen Lundberg with echoes of Johanna Sallstrom in the TV series. Wisting’s ordinariness echoes many of his fellow Scandinavian cops, and in other ways, as they have a penchant for making human errors, in simple things outside of best-practice, though in practice this is worse on television than in the originals novels, as the novelist has no need to add extra complications to the plot to fill a sixth or eighth episode.

The biggest shortcoming in Horst’s novel is the lack of depth to almost all the supporting cast—a couple of whom are fascinating characters: Nordbo of course, but also Stiller, from whom we get hints of much going on beneath the surface, and Kerr’s lawyer Claes Thancke, who is a sort of Norwegian Mickey Haller. You like to see them given a bit more space to be described and have more of their characters revealed. It is not a fatal flaw, ironically, because Horst’s plotting is so precise, and fast-paced, that their characters are delineated by their roles within the story—roles which Horst is very good at getting you to doubt.

It’s the kind of police procedural which gets read faster and faster as it nears the end, and not just because there’s a thriller element as well. If you might want more insight into Wisting, it doesn’t stop you being intrigued by how he works.

The Inner Darkness by Jorn Lier Horst

Michael Joseph: Penguin £14.99 ISBN 9780241389577

Note: this review will also appear at Crime Time (

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