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.
Det. Hanne Wilhelmsen and her colleague H kon Sand, an attorney with the Special Branch of the Oslo police, look into two murders in Edgar-finalist Holt's well-paced first Hanne Wilhelmsen novel, the second to be published in the U.S. (after 2011's 1222). A frightened Dutchman, who won't give his name, quickly confesses to the first murder, that of a drug dealer. When the Dutchman insists that inexperienced lawyer Karen Borg, an old friend of Sand's, represent him, the police suspect that unknown corrupt lawyers, part of a massive criminal organization, are behind Borg's selection. The subsequent fatal shooting of a sleazy lawyer may be linked to the first murder. Snippets of the crooks' reactions to the police investigation add tension, while the breaking of a "book code" helps bring the criminal activities into focus. Characterizations that compel without being obtrusive compensate for the somewhat disappointing reveal of the ultimate culprit's identity.