Police officer Alexander Blix and celebrity blogger Emma Ramm join forces to track down a serial killer with a thirst for attention and high-profile murders, in the first episode of a gripping new Nordic Noir series…
Today we have an extract from Death Deserved, a co-written thriller by two great Norwegian crime writers (and translated by Anne Bruce). If you have been following this blog for a while or attending any of the crime festivals such as Bloody Scotland or Newcastle Noir you will be familiar with Thomas Enger and his Henning Juul series. Jorn Lier Horst is a former police investigator and the author who gave us the William Wisting books which have just been made into a TV series and shown in the UK. Horst’s books are published by Scottish publisher Sandstone Press. These authors have worked together to write Death Deserved which is published in paperback by Orenda Books on 20 February 2020.
Oslo, 2018. Former long-distance runner Sonja Nordstrøm doesn’t show at the launch of her controversial autobiography, Always Number One. When celebrity blogger Emma Ramm visits Nordstrøm’s home later that day, she finds the door unlocked and signs of a struggle inside. A bib with the number ‘one’ has been pinned to the TV.
Police officer Alexander Blix is appointed to head up the missing-persons investigation, but he still bears the emotional scars of a hostage situation nineteen years earlier, when he killed the father of a five-year-old girl. Traces of Nordstrøm soon show up at different locations, but the appearance of the clues appear to be carefully calculated … evidence of a bigger picture that he’s just not seeing…
Blix and Ramm soon join forces, determined to find and stop a merciless killer with a flare for the dramatic, and thirst for attention. The trouble is, he’s just got his first taste of it…
Sunday 9 May 1999
The police radio crackled.
‘0-1 seeking all available units for Agmund Bolts vei in Teisen.’
Alexander Blix glanced across at Gard Fosse. ‘That’s just round the corner,’ he said.
Blix slammed his foot on the accelerator as Fosse picked up the mic from the dashboard.
‘0-1, this is Fox 2-1,’ Fosse relayed. ‘We’re in Tvetenveien, about one minute away.’
Blix switched on the blue light and sirens just as more crackling noises filled the car:
‘Fox 2-1, 0-1 reading you. This is a possible shooting incident. There have previously been reports of domestic violence at the address.’
Domestic violence, Blix thought. He’d been called out on a number of similar cases, but none where a shot had been fired.
He swung into Agmund Bolts vei at the end of the Østre Gravlund graveyard, stepped on the gas again and swept past several blocks of flats with balconies facing the street. Cars were parked on both sides of the road. Birch trees at regular intervals.
This was what they had trained for.
It was what they had been looking forward to – being first to arrive at a real crime scene. For a year they had been rookies, sitting in the back seats of patrol cars. Now they were in charge. Blix’s hands clenched the steering wheel.
‘Looks like it’s up ahead,’ Fosse said, pointing to a huddle of bystanders.
Blix braked sharply and stopped the car at an angle across the road. He turned off the engine and sirens, but left the blue light on.
‘It came from in there,’ a woman cried as Blix and Fosse leapt out of the car. She pointed at a small white house.
‘Sounded like a high-calibre gun,’ a man added.
‘Has anyone come out since you heard the shots?’ Blix asked. ‘Or gone in?’
The woman shook her head.
‘How many people live there?’ Fosse asked.
‘Four,’ another woman answered. ‘They’ve got two little girls, but I think only one’s at home.’
Blix swore under his breath. ‘OK,’ he said. ‘Go home and stay inside. And lock your doors.’ As the small crowd dispersed, Blix pushed the garden gate open. ‘You take that side of the house, and I’ll take the other one,’ he told Fosse, pointing in both directions.
‘You’re not thinking of going in?’ Fosse protested.
‘A shot’s been fired,’ Blix replied. ‘And there could be a little kid in there.’
‘Safety first,’ Fosse said, repeating their police college instructors’ mantra. ‘We have to wait for backup.’
Blix was familiar with the directive. The situation called for them to isolate and observe while waiting for reinforcements. But this was no college assignment.
‘Backup could take ten minutes,’ he said. ‘And we don’t know if we even have ten minutes.
Moving to the car, he opened the boot, unlocked the gun safe and took out his service weapon, then loaded it with six cartridges and clicked the barrel into place.
‘Seriously, we really have to—’
‘Help the kid,’ Blix interrupted, pushing past his colleague. ‘If she’s in there.’
He walked up to the front door and squinted through the thick glass window that occupied the top half of the door. Saw nothing. He wheeled around to face Fosse. ‘Are you just going to stand there?’
Fosse shifted his weight from one foot to the other. ‘I don’t like this,’ he said.
‘Neither do I,’ Blix replied. ‘But we have to do something.’
He moved around to the side of the house, where he stood on tiptoe, trying to peer in through the only window on the gable wall, but it was too high. He continued on, emerging into a small garden where snow was still piled up. The bushes were brown and scraggly. He spotted a rusty swing frame and a ramshackle veranda. Armchairs dotted with cushions. Empty, brown beer bottles on the veranda floor, and an ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts.
Blix stepped warily, fearing the sound of footsteps would signal his presence. The living room had picture windows, but the reflection made it difficult to see inside; he knew, though, that the huge expanse of glass left him exposed.
He turned around and made his way back to the front door. Fosse was now sitting in the car; Blix could hear that he was talking to the operations centre. Blix inserted his earphone and caught the operator saying that the nearest patrol car was twelve minutes away.
Blix took a breath, settled his shoulders. Tried the door.
It creaked as it swung open. Blix took two steps inside. Stopped. Listened. Heard nothing. Or…
Was that a whimper? A sniffle? Someone saying ‘shhh’?
He moved forwards, gun raised, leaving the door wide open behind him, hoping that Fosse would change his mind and follow.
A passageway led him further into the house. The floorboards were noisy. He peeked into the nearest room and quickly withdrew his head. A small toilet with a wash basin. He repeated the manoeuvre at the next room. No one there either. His breath quivered as he inhaled. He struggled to listen again, but could near nothing.
The door to the kitchen was slightly ajar. Blix slowly nudged it open. It also creaked.
He let it swing wide.
A woman lay flat on her back, lifeless, her head turned to one side, so he could see her blank, staring eyes. A large pool of blood had collected on the floor beside her, a rag rug nearby beginning to soak it up.
He swallowed. Felt an insistent throbbing in his throat and chest. He held his breath for a few seconds, then raised his gun and stepped inside the room, making sure to avoid treading in the blood. Crouching down, he checked the body for a pulse but found none. He stood up and spoke as softly as he could into the radio attached to his lapel.
‘0-1, this is Fox 2-1 Alpha. A woman is dead, shot. I repeat: a woman is dead, shot.’
The radio made a slight crackling noise. As Blix stepped away from the woman, he caught a glimpse of the gaping hole in the centre of her ribcage.
‘Don’t come any closer.’
The voice, hoarse and strained, came from further inside the house. Blix halted. He stretched out, trying to see around the doorframe and into the living room.
There, in front of a glass table, was a man with a gun in his hand. It was pointing at the blonde head of a girl who could not have been more than five years old. She was weeping silently. Sobbing. Shaking.
‘Don’t come any closer,’ the man repeated. ‘I’ll shoot. I’ll shoot both of you.’ He shoved the pistol into the little girl’s hair.
Blix hoped she hadn’t seen the body in the kitchen. Hoped she hadn’t seen the woman die. ‘Relax,’ Blix said – he could hear the tremble in his voice.
‘Put the gun down,’ the man said.
‘Put. The gun. Down.’
The man was probably in his late thirties, bearded, sweaty, with a shock of short, straggly hair. He took the gun away from the girl’s head and turned it on Blix. No tremor. No nervousness. Just desperation.
The girl closed her eyes. Tears ran down her face.
‘Don’t do anything stupid,’ Blix said – he was trying to call upon everything he had learned at college, what he should say, what he should do in a situation like this. But now he was in one, he could think of no sensible strategy. He was forced to improvise. Make an attempt to talk some sense into the man.
His mind drifted to Merete, waiting for him at home. She had never liked his choice of profession. She’d always warned him of the dangers he would have to confront.
He thought of Iselin, barely three months old.
Blix lowered his gun.
‘What’s your name?’ he asked as he fought to control his breathing.
The man made no response.
‘In only a couple of minutes, the whole house will be surrounded,’ Blix went on. ‘You won’t get out of here.’
‘They’re mine!’ the man wailed suddenly. ‘Mine!’
‘Yes, and you’ll get to see them grow up,’ Blix said, nodding. His eyes searched for a second child, but he only saw the girl.
‘No one is going to take them from me,’ the man said. ‘Do you hear?’
‘I hear you, but please – don’t make things any worse than they are.’
‘Put down your gun,’ the man repeated with even more desperation in his voice. ‘I won’t tell you again. Get out of here! This is my home.’
Blix listened out for sirens. For Fosse.
‘I can’t do that,’ he said, looking at the little girl again and trying hard to thrust aside thoughts of his own daughter. ‘I can’t leave,’ he said. ‘Not now when you—’
‘You’ve got five seconds,’ the man broke in.
Blix raised his eyes to look at him. Grubby white singlet, sweat stains on the stomach, curly chest hairs poking out.
He was not going to do it. These were just empty threats.
‘Can’t we just sit down and—’
Blix took a deep breath. Gulped.
‘Let’s talk about this…’
Blix gripped his gun even harder. ‘Think of your daughter, think of what you’re taking away from her.’
The guy looked completely mad, Blix thought. He raised his gun again.
‘She’s only, what, five years old?’
Blix flexed his finger on the trigger.
The guy is going to do it, Blix thought. Bloody hell, he’s really going to do it.
And then a shot rang out.
This book is on tour for 29 days, this is day 3. If you like the sound of it you have plenty of time to check out what some book bloggers think of it (see poster above). Today’s extract was provided by Orenda. Please explore the work of Thomas and Jorn on our blog using the search bar. We have blog posts about both their work going back a few years. Thanks for reading!