The caveman is the eighth crime novel in the series
by former Norwegian police officer Jorn Lier Horst. The series main characters
are William Wisting, his journalist daughter Line, and their assorted
In December the
body of one of Williams' neighbours Viggo Hansen is discovered by an engineer
from the electricity company who has come to disconnect his electricity supply.
He is found mummified sitting in an armchair watching TV. He has been dead
since August. It appears to be a simple case of natural causes. Line reads
about the case in the local paper, and is intrigued about it, as she didn't
remember him, despite Viggo living in the same street as her family. She sets
out to write a profile on his life, and also to address several important
social issues. These issues are the growing numbers of people living and dying
alone, the atomisation and fragmentation of western societies, including the
Nordic countries, whereby people like Viggo living on the margins of society
are ignored and neglected. I found interesting and sad, Line's exploration of
Viggo's life, as everyone from former pupils and colleagues, to current
neighbours, the doctor and vicar didn't remember anything about him. I found
particularly poignant the fact that there were no photographs of him taken
since the 1960's.
to Viggo's poignant story, is the discovery of a second male dead body. This
one has also been dead since August, and is found underneath a large tree on a Christmas
tree farm. The body is discovered to be a retired Professor, Bob Crabbe, who
had come to Norway in the summer on the trail of an American serial killer. It
emerges that the serial killer had been living undetected in Norway for over 20
years, having taken over the identity of a similarly forgotten person. The FBI is
called in, as the killer is on their wanted list. The two deaths are eventually
revealed to be interlinked.
themes of the novel are loneliness and solitariness, and how this is exacerbated
by contemporary society, where people lack the time and inclination to get to
know and visit their neighbours. It is also about identity and how well we know
a person, as we often only find out about a person's real personality when they die.
The setting of
the novel, Larvik in south west Norway is very well evoked, and I got a real
sense of the place. It reminded me in some ways of Ystad in Sweden, where
Henning Mankell set his Wallander novels, with the feeling of being isolated,
although Larvik is only 65 miles from Oslo. The isolation is also increased as it is the middle of
winter, with heavy snow, trapping people and making the investigations harder.
I enjoyed the
novel, although I did have to suspend my disbelief at the plot strand of a US
serial killer operating undiscovered in Norway for over 20 years. Was this really plausible? However I found fascinating the concept
of "the caveman" of the book's title, where a criminal could take
over and live the life of a marginalised member of society without being
detected. I also enjoyed the
relationship between William and Line, and was tantalised by the glimpses of
Williams' dead wife Ingrid, who appears in the earlier untranslated books. In
some ways William reminds me of Kurt Wallander, especially in the relationships
William has with his colleagues.
I was pleased to discover that Sandstone
Press have also published three other novels in the series, and have just
bought another one to read. However I was irritated to discover that like so
many publishers they decided to start from the middle of the series, ignoring
the first five books, which left me disorientated and frustrated. Hopefully the
publishers will now begin translating and publishing the earlier books.