Odd Numbers (Offline) by Anne Holt

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One of Norway's leading crime writers tackles Islamophobia and radicalisation in her ninth Hanne Wilhelmsen detective novel.

In the landscape of Nordic noir, Anne Holt distinguishes herself with her experience and also her narrative skills, crafting stories that thoughtfully probe into the fabric of society. Her novel “Odd Numbers,” also released as “Offline,” is no exception.

Cityscape of Oslo, Norway.
Anne Holt often shows the grittier side of Oslo in her novels.

This book, part of Holt’s celebrated Hanne Wilhelmsen series, delves into the complexities of crime, human nature, and the often blurry lines between justice and morality.

It took me a while to jump on board the Scandinavian crime fiction wave. It was Anne Holt's locked-room mystery 1222 that finally got me into reading the genre.

Released in English in 2017 two years after the Norwegian original, Odd Numbers is the ninth and penultimate book in Anne Holt’s series about the fictional detective Hanne Wilhelmsen.

The series has made quite the impact. Leading Scottish crime writer Val McDermid said that “Anne Holt is the latest crime writer to reveal how truly dark it gets in Scandinavia.”

Interested? Check the price and order the book now on Amazon (affiliate link)

The book was released as Offline in Norway and confusingly the name was also used in some other English language markets. It was translated from Norwegian into English by Anne Bruce.

A tense countdown

The story is set in Oslo, where a bomb goes off in an Islamic Cooperation Council building, causing widespread panic.

Anne Holt's Offline book cover

The narrative follows retired police detective Hanne Wilhelmsen as she is drawn back into the world of crime investigation.

Holt masterfully crafts a plot that is both a race against time and a deep dive into the motives and fears driving each character. The tension is palpable as the narrative unfolds, with the looming threat of another terrorist attack.

Character development

One of Holt’s strengths is her character development, particularly evident in the protagonist, Hanne Wilhelmsen.

A retired, wheelchair-bound detective, Hanne is not your typical crime novel hero. She is complex, often brooding, and carries the weight of her past experiences and personal losses.

Her character arc throughout the series and in this book is compelling and adds depth to the narrative. Holt does not shy away from exploring Hanne’s vulnerabilities, making her a relatable and memorable protagonist.

Exploring multifaceted Oslo society

As with many crime novels, this book is a mirror reflecting societal issues. Holt, with her background in law and journalism, brings a unique perspective to the narrative.

The book touches on themes like terrorism, Islamophobia, and the fear of the ‘other’ that permeates modern societies.

Holt’s treatment of these themes is nuanced, avoiding cliches and offering a balanced view that challenges the reader to think critically about these complex issues.

Oslo, as depicted in the book, is a character in its own right. Holt’s descriptive prowess brings the city to life, from its bustling streets to the quiet, tense atmosphere following the bombing.

The setting adds to the novel's mood, with the city’s cold, often bleak landscape mirroring the dark themes explored in the story.

Holt’s writing style is engaging, with a balance of fast-paced action and thoughtful exposition. The dialogue is sharp, and the narrative flow is smooth, making the book a page-turner. Yet, Holt does not compromise on depth for the sake of pace.

What others have said

“With Odd Numbers Anne Holt has written a fascinating, intricate novel about life in Norway in awful, exhausting circumstances.  Holt does an excellent job explaining what characters in Norway think about Muslims living in Norway – some are racists, some encourage diversity, and many draw less clear lines.” – Mystery People blog

Interested? Check the price and order the book now on Amazon (affiliate link)

“A prophetic counterterrorist procedural whose bold central conceit is likely to grow more depressingly plausible with every passing week” – Kirkus

“In Odd Numbers, Holt skilfully melds terrorism and parental issues in an absorbing compact plot. Holt illustrates Oslo's multicultural society while showing the humanity behind hate that can lead to terrorism” – Daily Herald

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