Review: Dregs – Jørn Lier Horst


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Original title: Bunnfall, 2010. Translated from the Norwegian by Anne Bruce, 2011. Sandstone Press, 2011. 310 pages. ISBN: 978-1-905207-67-1.

The action begins a couple of days before Midsummer Night when a training shoe with some human remains inside appears at a beach near Stavern, a small Norwegian town in the municipality of Larvik. Chief Inspector William Wisting thought he had seen it all however this is another macabre discovery in a short period of time. This is the second shoe with a severed foot that appears in his district. But they don’t match, the first one was also a left shoe. A few days later four left feet have been found floating in different parts of the coast. Is there a logical explanation for this? Has there been a terrible accident at sea? Is this the action of a murderer who dismembers his victims?

Soon Wisting and his team (inspectors Nils Hammer and Torunn Borg and crime technician Espen Mortensen) are able to link the feet with four missing persons. All four had disappeared within the space of a few days in September of the previous year. Three are referred as The Old Folk. Two of them lived at a nursing home, the third man of about the same age was still active enough to live at home. The fourth one, the only woman, was much younger and had no connections to the others. She was a nursery teacher on sick leave who used to spend some time as a patient at a regional psychiatric institution before her disappearance. Another woman, Camilla Thaulow, one of the carers at the nursing home, had a good relationship with two of the missing men but she had not been interviewed before and now, when they are trying to get in touch with her, they realise that there was another report about a missing person from that very same morning and her name is Camilla Thaulow. What interests can hide these events?

The story is told in short chapters that are very easy to read. The point of view shifts mainly between Wisting and his daughter, Line. The characters are credible and the plot is nicely intertwined. The end result is a very realistic police procedural that deserves the highest rating. Highly recommended. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series as soon as they become available in English.

Jørn Lier Horst was born in 1970, in Bamble, Telemark, Norway. He has worked as a policeman in Larvik since 1995. His debut novel in 2004, Key Witness, was based on a true murder story. The William Wisting novel series so far has the following titles: Key Witness (2004), Goodbye, Felicia (2005), When the Sea Calms (2006), The Only One (2007), The Night Man (2009), Dregs (2010) and Winter Snow (2011). Dregs is his first book published in English.

Talking about his novel and the main character, William Wisting, Jørn Lier Horst commented: “Dregs, as well as following a crime investigation, is a novel about the effect of the punishment we give the offenders. After 16 years in the police profession, in which I have handed out long prison sentences, it is one question I increasingly ask myself, what difference does imprisonment make with the criminals, and what does it mean for the community? It is a paradox that in a welfare society whose basic idea is that we should help people in difficult situations, relieve pain and reduce suffering, we choose the infliction of the evil that a prison sentence is. A prison sentence should have a reasonable content so that the inmates may be released as better people. I often discuss this when I visit prisons as a writer. It was a conversation with one inmate that gave me the title Dregs. I talked to a prisoner that was serving his fourth sentence – this time for murder. He said that the worst thing with the prison sentence was not that he was sitting behind bars, but to be released. At his release he ended up not only outside the community, but at the bottom and had become society’s dregs.” (From The Sandstone Blog)

Sandstone Press 

Jørn Lier Horst official site

Dregs has been reviewed by Bernadette at Reactions to Reading, Maxine at Petrona, at Crime Fiction Lover, by NancyO at Crime Segments, by Sarah at Crimepieces, by Glenn at International Noir Fiction, and Peter at Nordic Bookblog

Dregs – Jørn Lier Horst

La acción comienza un par de días antes de la noche de San Juan cuando una zapatilla de deporte con restos humanos en su interior aparece en una playa cerca de Stavern, una pequeña ciudad noruega en el municipio de Larvik. El inspector jefe William Wisting creía haberlo visto todo. No obstante este es otro macabro descubrimiento en un breve período de tiempo. El segundo zapato con un pie cortado que aparece en su distrito. Pero las zapatillas no casan, la primera también era la izquierda. A los pocos días cuatro pies izquierdos han aparecido flotando en diferentes partes de la costa. ¿Existe una explicación lógica para esto? Acaso ha habido un terrible accidente en el mar? ¿O se trata acaso de la acción de un asesino que descuartiza a sus víctimas?

Pronto Wisting y su equipo (los inspectores Nils Hammer y Torunn Borg y la experta en criminología Espen Mortensen) son capaces de vincular los pies con cuatro personas desaparecidas. Las cuatro habían desaparecido alrededor de las mismas fechas el pasado mes de septiembre. Tres de ellos son mencionados como los viejos. Dos vivian en un hogar de ancianos, el tercer hombre de la misma edad, todavía podía vivir en su casa. La cuarta persona, la única mujer, era mucho más joven y no tenía relación alguna con ellos. Ella era una maestra infantil de baja por enfermedad que pasaba tiempo internada en una institución psiquiátrica antes de su desaparición. Otra mujer, Camilla Thaulow, una de los cuidadoras en el hogar de ancianos, tenía una buena relación con dos de los desaparecidos, pero no habia sido entrevistado antes y ahora, cuando tratan de ponerse en contacto con ella, se dan cuenta de que esta misma mañana ha llegado una denuncia sobre otra persona desaparecida y su nombre es Camila Thaulow. Pero, ¿qué intereses pueden ocultar estos hechos?

La historia está contada en capítulos cortos que resultan muy fáciles de leer. El punto de vista se desplaza principalmente entre Wisting y su hija, Line. Los personajes son creíbles y la trama está muy bien entrelazada. El resultado final es una investigación policial muy realista que merece la calificación más alta. Muy recomendable. Estoy deseando leer el resto de los libros de la serie tan pronto como estén disponibles en Inglés.

Jørn Lier Horst nació en 1970, en Bamble, Telemark, Noruega. Ha trabajado como policía en Larvik desde 1995. Publicó su primera novela en 2004, Key Witness, basada en una historia real. La serie protagonizada por William Wisting consta de los siguientes títulos hasta la fecha: Key Witness (2004), Goodbye, Felicia (2005), When the Sea Calms (2006), The Only One (2007), The Night Man (2009), Dregs (2010) y Winter Snow (2011). Dregs es su primer libro disponible en inglés.

Hablando sobre su novela y sobre su protagonista, William Wisting, Jørn Lier Horst, comentó: “Dregs , además de contar una investigación criminal, es una novela sobre el efecto que tiene el castigo en los delincuentes. Después de 16 años como policía, en donde he tenido que repartir largas condenas de cárcel, es una pregunta que cada vez me hago, ¿qué se consigue privando de libertad a los delincuentes? ¿Qué representa esto para la comunidad? Es una paradoja que en la sociedad del bienestar, cuya idea básica es que debemos ayudar a las personas en situaciones difíciles, aliviar su dolor y reducir su sufrimiento, elegimos la imposición de un mal como es una pena de prisión. Una pena de prisión debe tener un contenido razonable para que los presos pueden salir siendo mejores personas. A menudo hablo de esto en mi visita a las cárceles como escritor. Fue una conversación que tuve con un preso la que me dio la idea del título Dregs (escoria). Hablé con un preso que cumplía su cuarta condena – esta vez por asesinato. Me dijo que lo peor de una pena de prisión no era estar entre rejas, sino salir en libertad. Cuando salió, no sólo acabó al margen de la comunidad, sino en el fondo, se había convertido en la escoria de la sociedad.”(Mi traducción libre).

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7 thoughts on “Review: Dregs – Jørn Lier Horst

  1. I’m glad you liked this Jose. I agree that the 2 POV’s worked very well and I thought the interlinking of the two jobs which met towards the end was well done. Maxine pointed me towards an interview with the author which explained that he plots the action on an excel spreadsheet and I think this detailed work behind the writing is clear to see. I too am looking forward to future books.

    1. Thank you Sarah. I didn’t know how that, but the book is nicely plotted and it’s interesting to find how all the pieces in the puzzle falls into place.

  2. Lovely review, Jose Ignacio. So glad you liked this one, it does not seem to have got much publicity but I think a very good book indeed. It’s a very nice author interview, I agree.

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