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What Never Happens    by Anne Holt order for
What Never Happens
by Anne Holt
Order:  USA  Can
Grand Central, 2008 (2008)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

What Never Happens is the sequel to Anne Holt's What Is Mine (in which the popular Scandinavian author made her North American debut). The first book brought together highly intuitive police Inspector Adam Stubo and analytical psychologist (and brilliant profiler) Johanne Vik. They are multi-dimensional, complex leads - Stubo is also a caring grandfather who grieves over the loss of his wife and adult daughter, while Johanne's small daughter Kristiane is mentally handicapped.

As What Never Happens opens, Adam and Johanne are still adjusting to married life together - and the sleep deprivation caused by their new baby, Ragnhild - when he's handed a case involving a serial killer of Scandinavian celebrities. The bodies are carefully staged in positions guaranteed to shock - and to send a message tailored to a secret each victim has kept from the public. Naturally, Adam consults Johanne, who gets involved, though somewhat reluctantly. As more victims materialize, Johanne struggles to remember something from her own past that's germane to the investigation.

Interspersed with a window on Adam's and Johanne's lives in Norway and on different avenues of the police investigation (including several red herrings), the author treats the reader to the killer's point of view, elsewhere in Europe. In particular, we see the killer's reaction to the media coverage generated by her gruesome murders - and learn that her past once intersected with that of Johanne Vik. And as Johanne begins to understand that she might also be a target, her anxiety - which, given that she's a new mother, is already acute - skyrockets.

Anne Holt combines an unusual premise - which a policeman calls 'A bit X-files' - with gruesome murders in What Never Happens, deftly contrasting her serial killings with the relative normality of new parenthood for Adam and Johanne. Though I was engrossed by the story, I found the rather abrupt and sinister ending - which leaves a reader to wonder if this is simply one episode of a two-book story - disappointing.

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