The Katharina Code by Jørn Lier Horst

:- My introduction to Nordic Noir

I previously mentioned in my recent Currently Reading post that this book was originally a Christmas present for my dad as he’s always enjoyed Scandinavian crime novels, but read nothing by this author, and I always wanted to borrow it after him. The Nordic Noir genre has fast become a favourite among thriller readers, but this is my first introduction to the written version, although I have watched TV series’ such as The Killing, The Bridge and Borgen. My love for that part of the world is heightened by my travels to Sweden over the years. So, if like me you hadn’t entered into Scandi-noir before, I can recommend starting with “The Katharina Code” as I thoroughly enjoyed it start-to finish and I feel enticed to explore the genre more.

Penguin Random House’s website describes the genre well “For fans of crime fiction, Nordic noir represents the bleakest of the bleak, often centering on brutal crimes tinged with shocking violence. The tales invariably feature protagonists who, while possessing a generally ferocious sense of justice, are nonetheless tortured, brooding, and generally introspective. The settings, whether city streets or remote villages, are desolate and harsh. Combine these elements with densely plotted mysteries that often feature more than a few shocking turns and a spartan, direct prose style to accentuate the genre’s dark themes and it is not difficult to see why Nordic noir has been so influential and successful a piece of the crime genre.” – (

As the book is translated from Norwegian to English I did find the sentence structure to be staccato and felt like almost “broken English”, although the translation is very good, it just doesn’t have the natural flow of an English author. I think this actually make me liked it more! It feels authentic and there’s something familiar and comforting about the characters to me. I have to admit I almost read the words with an accent as I could envisage them being spoken to me in English by native Scandinavians. I did find it slightly perplexing that the author used the characters full names throughout, even though none of them shared a first name so it wasn’t to prevent us from getting confused. Just was a little unusual for me to keep seeing the surnames, but I think this helped to keep suspect characters at a distance and not too personally involved. I found the imagery easy to visualise and the settings aptly sparse and desolate, but well described with suitable detail.

The plot isn’t overly complex, but I think that could be due to the Cold Case aspect, but it’s very intriguing especially when it merges with another case and I could not work it out! I got fixated on suspecting someone because of their suspicious and unexplained behaviour but ultimately “The Katharina Code” does have a simple explanation and I liked that there wasn’t an influx of unnecessary characters. It was a tight knit investigation with added trepidation and suspense and I found the tone paced just right for the story-line. I liked how the answer gradually fell into place, almost like a drip-fed reveal as they were twists but not shouted in your face – subtlety worked well in this case, as I think it reflected how a cold case would be handled in real life. I also enjoyed the personal touches and insights into home lives outside of the police inquiry.

Jorn Lier Horst’s current portfolio of books – credit to

“The Katharina Code” is the first book in the ‘Cold Case Quartet’ by Jorn Lier Horst, with the 3rd book due out in 2020. His lead detective character William Wisting features in 6 other books of his namesake series, then the to-be-completed 4 cold case novels too.

A new series was started in 2019 which is a combined venture with another author – Thomas Enger. I would be interested to read this one to see if the 2 author’s backgrounds show through in the characters. Jorn Lier Horst was previously a Senior Investigating Officer in the Norwegian police force, while Thomas Enger studied journalism. This format similarly mirrors the journalist presence in “The Katharina Code” that I enjoyed immensely and added great depth to the story-line.

In summary, I enjoyed my first delve into Nordic Noir and I will become a firm resident and aim to buy more novels from other authors, as well as continuing with William Wisting. Although the genre is relatively new to me, there is already a list of classics I feel I should purchase; Stieg Larsson- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Jo Nesbo – The Bat and Henning Mankell’s “Wallander” series. I started reading as the weather took a chilly turn in the UK and this suitably matched the pathetic fallacy, but as I neared the end it warmed up again to 28 degrees here so felt a little odd reading about lashing rain and wood-burning fires in glorious May sunshine. Nonetheless, I will be coming back for more, and I hope you do too! – GJ

One thought on “The Katharina Code by Jørn Lier Horst

  1. I’ve watched the televised Wisting dramas and enjoyed them very much and I’m definitely going to be reading the books as well now!


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: