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What Is Mine    by Anne Holt order for
What Is Mine
by Anne Holt
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Norway is hit by every parent's ultimate nightmare. Someone is stealing children. Parents fear the worst, as the media underlines and exaggerates every horrific possibility. Then the worst happens, as the children's bodies begin to be returned to their devastated families.

Police Inspector Adam Stubo follows every trail but can't come to grips with either the killer's motivation or his method - autopsies show no signs of how these small children died, and the only commonality between the young victims is a note left by their murderer, 'Now you've got what you deserved.' After Stubo watches Johanne Vik - a psychologict and lawyer who worked briefly with the FBI as a profiler - rebuke the media on television, he's convinced that she can help him solve the crimes, and perhaps find the first abducted child, Emilie, whose corpse has not been returned to her father.

Johanne Vik's research into the relationship between media involvement and the ultimate fates of those convicted of crimes, but who claimed innocence, has led her to a fascinating case. She was contacted by an old, dying woman, Alvhild Sofienberg, once a lawyer responsible for preparing applications for royal pardons. She asks Johanne to find a man, Aksel Seier, who was unjustly convicted of child rape and murder in 1956. Seier served time, but was suddenly, surprisingly released from jail. Alvhild has never forgotten his case, which had many disturbing aspects, including missing files and an apparent cover-up.

Johanne flies to the United States to meet Seier, now an old man, while Stubo pursues his investigation, and continues to contact her, requesting her help. Eventually she caves in, leading to late night brainstorming sessions - and a slowly developing attraction - between the two. While officials and media focus their attention on a copycat abductor, Johanne and Adam work to find the real killer. Gradually, small links develop between Stubo's case and the cold one that Johanne is pursuing, leading to a most surprising denoumenent, one that few will see coming.

Anne Holt develops interesting, multi-dimensional characters as leads. Stubo, a grandfather, is haunted by guilt over his own ghosts, those of his dead wife and adult daughter, while Johanne's small daughter Kristiane is mentally handicapped (she shares custody with her ex, Isak). Adam Stubo is highly intuitive, while Johanne is precise, thorough and logical. Both characters are very real, as are secondaries like Johanne's caring mother who, when she tells Johanne her sister looks fabulous, is really saying that her other daughter 'looked like something the cat dragged in.'

What Is Mine is Anne Holt's North American debut - she is already a very popular mystery writer in Scandinavia - and this book is only the first in the Stubo and Johanne series. I enjoyed it very much and look forward to more of this delightful and unusual crime-fighting duo.

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