Blind Goddess

Hanne Wilhelmsen Book One

Translated by Tom Geddes
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About The Book

The first book in Edgar-nominated Anne Holt’s international bestselling mystery series featuring detective Hanne Wilhelmsen, last seen in 1222.

A small-time drug dealer is found battered to death on the outskirts of the Norwegian capital, Oslo. A young Dutchman, walking aimlessly in central Oslo covered in blood, is taken into custody but refuses to talk. When he is informed that the woman who discovered the body, Karen Borg, is a lawyer, he demands her as his defender, although her specialty is civil, not criminal, law.

A couple of days later another lawyer is found shot to death. Soon police officers Håkon Sand and Hanne Wilhelmsen establish a link between the two killings. They also find a coded message hidden in the murdered lawyer’s apartment. Their maverick colleague in the drugs squad, Billy T., reports that a recent rumor in the drug underworld involves drug-dealing lawyers. Now the reason why the young Dutchman insisted on having Karen Borg as a defender slowly dawns on them: since she was the one to find and report the body, she is the only Oslo lawyer that cannot be implicated in the crime.

As the officers investigate, they uncover a massive network of corruption leading to the highest levels of government. As their lives are threatened, Hanne and her colleagues must find the killer and, in the process, bring the lies and deception out into the open.

Excerpt
Blind Goddess
The man was dead. Conclusively, beyond all reasonable doubt. She could tell instantly. Afterwards she couldn’t really explain her absolute certainty. Maybe it was the way he was lying, his face hidden by the rotting leaves, a dog turd right by his ear. No drunk with any self-respect lies down next to a dog turd.

She rolled him over carefully. His entire face was missing. It was impossible to recognise anything of what must once have been a person with an individual identity. The chest was a man’s, with three holes in it.

She had to turn away and retch violently, bringing up nothing but a bitter taste in her mouth and painful cramps in her stomach, letting the corpse fall forward again. She realised too late that she had moved it just enough for the head to land in the excrement, which was now spread all over the drenched dark-blond hair. That was the sight that finally made her throw up, spattering him with the tomato-coloured contents of her stomach. It seemed almost like a derisive gesture of the living towards the dead. The peas from her dinner weren’t yet digested, and they lay there like toxic-green full stops over the dead man’s back.

Karen Borg started running. She called her dog, and put it on the lead she always carried mostly for the sake of appearances. The dog scampered excitedly alongside her until it realised that its mistress was sobbing and gasping, and then it decided to contribute its own anxious whining and whimpering to a chorus of lamentation.

They ran and ran and ran.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Blind Goddess includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

While walking her dog, civil litigator Karen Borg stumbles upon the decaying body of a low-level drug dealer. Days later, notorious Oslo lawyer Hans E. Olson is shot at gunpoint in his home. Detective Inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen and Police Attorney Håkon Sand begin investigating the two murders in tandem and quickly discover a web of corruption, lies, and secrets that extend to the top levels of professional Oslo society and the Norwegian government—a discovery that may as well cost them their lives.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Why does Karen Borg decide to take on the case of Han van der Kerch, despite the fact that she has not tried a criminal case for eight years? How is her mental state impacted by her discovery in the woods? Were you suspicious of Peter’s intentions?

2. How would you describe Hanne and Håkon’s relationship? How does it change over the course of Blind Goddess? Why does their partnership work so well? 

3. In her interactions with her colleagues, Hanne is extremely private and shares little information about her partner, Cecile. Do you think her desire to keep her personal and professional worlds separate is driven by a normal need for privacy, or something more?

4. Håkon and Karen have a complicated relationship. Why doesn’t Karen decide to leave Nils? Why does Håkon wait for her time and time again? Do you think they will ever be together? Why or why not? 

5. Hanne and Håkon discover that the drug syndicate is made up of both powerful lawyers and lowlife criminals. What does each party stand to gain by taking part in the scheme? Is it just for the money?

6. Discuss the author’s perspective on social class and the legal system, based upon the court’s contrasting treatment of Jorgan Ulf Lavik and Jacob Frostrup.

7. Throughout the novel, the author allows readers access to conversations and scenes that Hanne and Håkon know nothing about, even going so far as provide the perspective of the drug syndicate boss long before his identity is revealed. Were these techniques successful in increasing the suspense of the narrative? Why do you think Holt choose to grant the reader such access? 

8. The one luxury item Hanne allows herself is her motorcycle, yet she hates wearing a helmet. How does this information serve to expand Hanne’s character? What other small but telling details does the author provide about Hanne? 

9. What is the role of the press in relation to the police force? Why does Håkon decide to help Fredrick Myhreng, and how does the journalist ultimately repay the police force for their information? Are Fredrick’s morally questionable actions justified by his ultimate purpose?

10. The climax of Blind Goddess takes place on a freezing cold, windswept night in the Norwegian countryside. How does the Scandinavian setting impact the action of the novel?

11. Lady Justitia is typically depicted as a blindfolded figure, representing the necessity of objectivity in matters of the law. Is justice in fact blind in the novel? Why does Karen choose to leave a statue of the Goddess of Justice as her parting gift to Håkon? Discuss the significance of Håkon’s statue and the position of its sword versus the police commissioner’s statue described earlier in the novel.

12. Blind Goddess is the first novel in Anne Holt’s acclaimed Hanne Wilhelmsen series, but the author has stated previously that she didn’t intend for Hanne to be the main character. Was Hanne the most intriguing character? 

13. Were you surprised by the final revelations of Blind Goddess? What does this conclusion impart on the construct of the Norwegian government, the trappings of authority, and the law?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Research the history of Lady Justice, also known as Justitia, the Roman goddess of Justice. Bring examples of images of Lady Justice throughout history to your book club meeting and discuss the similarities and differences between the various figures that you find. Why is Lady Justitia such a powerful symbol in the novel?
 
2. Anne Holt is one of the most successful crime novelists in Norway and has been published in 25 countries. Learn and listen to some basic Norwegian phrases by visiting www.bbc.co.uk/languages/other/quickfix/norwegian.shtml or www.linguanaut.com/english_norwegian.htm. Be sure to welcome your book club members to your discussion by saying Velkommen! 
 
3. Consider preparing Norwegian specialties, like Stekte Epler (Fried Apples) or Risengryn Grod (Norwegian Rice Pudding), for your book club meeting. For recipes and menu ideas, visit www.food.com/recipes/norwegian

 
About The Author
Photograph by Jo Michael

Anne Holt is Norway’s bestselling female crime writer. She was a journalist and news anchor and spent two years working for the Oslo Police Department before founding her own law firm and serving as Norway’s Minister for Justice in 1996 and 1997. Her first novel was published in 1993 and her books have been translated into over thirty languages and have sold more than 7 million copies. Her novel 1222 was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel. She lives in Oslo with her family.

Product Details
  • Publisher: Scribner (June 2012)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451634761

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Raves and Reviews

“Wherever Hanne shows up next, my advice is to follow that wheelchair."--Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review

"Anne Holt is the godmother of modern Norwegian crime fiction."-Jo Nesbo

“Holt proves a masterful plotter. Unexpected twists hold up to scrutiny, loose ends are tied up and the finale leaves readers wanting more.”--Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Get ready for a mystery that is packed solid with concise writing and intricate plotting…. Anne Holt is a consummate writer in the vein of Tana French, P.D. James and Peter Lovesey.”

– Durango Herald (Colorado)

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