The Caveman

Written by Jorn Lier Horst

Review written by Victoria Goodbody

The Caveman
RRP: £8.99
Released: February 19, 2015

The caveman is the eighth crime novel in the series by former Norwegian police officer Jorn Lier Horst. The series main characters are William Wisting, his journalist daughter Line, and their assorted colleagues.

In December the body of one of Williams' neighbours Viggo Hansen is discovered by an engineer from the electricity company who has come to disconnect his electricity supply. He is found mummified sitting in an armchair watching TV. He has been dead since August. It appears to be a simple case of natural causes. Line reads about the case in the local paper, and is intrigued about it, as she didn't remember him, despite Viggo living in the same street as her family. She sets out to write a profile on his life, and also to address several important social issues. These issues are the growing numbers of people living and dying alone, the atomisation and fragmentation of western societies, including the Nordic countries, whereby people like Viggo living on the margins of society are ignored and neglected. I found interesting and sad, Line's exploration of Viggo's life, as everyone from former pupils and colleagues, to current neighbours, the doctor and vicar didn't remember anything about him. I found particularly poignant the fact that there were no photographs of him taken since the 1960's.

Running parallel to Viggo's poignant story, is the discovery of a second male dead body. This one has also been dead since August, and is found underneath a large tree on a Christmas tree farm. The body is discovered to be a retired Professor, Bob Crabbe, who had come to Norway in the summer on the trail of an American serial killer. It emerges that the serial killer had been living undetected in Norway for over 20 years, having taken over the identity of a similarly forgotten person. The FBI is called in, as the killer is on their wanted list. The two deaths are eventually revealed to be interlinked.

The central themes of the novel are loneliness and solitariness, and how this is exacerbated by contemporary society, where people lack the time and inclination to get to know and visit their neighbours. It is also about identity and how well we know a person, as we often only find out about a person's real personality when they die.

The setting of the novel, Larvik in south west Norway is very well evoked, and I got a real sense of the place. It reminded me in some ways of Ystad in Sweden, where Henning Mankell set his Wallander novels, with the feeling of being isolated, although Larvik is only 65 miles from Oslo.  The isolation is also increased as it is the middle of winter, with heavy snow, trapping people and making the investigations harder.

I enjoyed the novel, although I did have to suspend my disbelief at the plot strand of a US serial killer operating undiscovered in Norway for over 20 years.  Was this really plausible?  However I found fascinating the concept of "the caveman" of the book's title, where a criminal could take over and live the life of a marginalised member of society without being detected.  I also enjoyed the relationship between William and Line, and was tantalised by the glimpses of Williams' dead wife Ingrid, who appears in the earlier untranslated books. In some ways William reminds me of Kurt Wallander, especially in the relationships William has with his colleagues.

 I was pleased to discover that Sandstone Press have also published three other novels in the series, and have just bought another one to read. However I was irritated to discover that like so many publishers they decided to start from the middle of the series, ignoring the first five books, which left me disorientated and frustrated. Hopefully the publishers will now begin translating and publishing the earlier books.


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