Dregs – Jørn Lier Horst

dregsTitle – Dregs

Author – Jørn Lier Horst (translated by Anne Bruce)

Published – 2010 (2011 in translation)

Genre – Crime fiction

Jørn Lier Horst is a Norwegian writer of crime fiction and relatively unusual in being a serving police officer at the time his first books were published. I came across him last year when Sarah of Crimepieces was extolling the virtues of his latest title and then I met him when he took part in the first Iceland Noir event. It wasn’t long before I treated myself to the first translated work (although this is the sixth in the William Wisting series).

In the course of a single week four feet are washed up on the shore. Not two pairs of feet, but four feet from separate individuals, complete with shoes. The police, led by Wisting, are puzzled about the origin of the feet and as well as trying to identify the ‘owners’ they also set about trying to discover the location of the corpses they were attached to.

At the same time as the investigation is taking place Wisting’s journalist daughter, Line, comes home to visit. Perhaps influenced by her father’s occupation, she is working on an article for a weekend magazine looking at the effect of severe punishment and lengthy spells in prison on offenders. This leads her to interview some ex-prisoners from the local area who are convicted murderers, and the story of one in particular piques her curiosity.

The police investigation gathers some pace as a group of elderly missing people are linked to the feet, but the possible motive and location of the bodies remain a mystery. The police work is dealt with believably (as you would expect) with a steady pace which allows the reader to try to put together the clues. Wisting isn’t your clichéd troubled detective, although there seem to have been some dark episodes in his past, but he is quite an introspective character. During the course of the book reference is made to some background issues, especially regarding relationships, which must have been covered in previous titles, and it might have been nice to know a little more but this is one of the disadvantages of publishers translating from the middle of a series.

My one real issue with the book, and what spoilt it for me, was the translation. Translated fiction often feels different when you’re reading it, even if the translator is a native English speaker there is still something about the use of language and flow that sets it apart, but I found phrases like ‘many more stones to unturn’ distracting.

This is an excellent example of Nordic crime fiction, well-plotted and with an enigmatic lead character.  Take a look at Sarah’s blog to see what she thought of this book at Crimepeices. You also have the chance to meet Jørn in Bristol next week – http://www.crimefest.com/programme.html




  1. The translation can really make or break a book, can’t it? I’ve reached a stage with Nordic crime where I’m as interested to see who translated it as who wrote it. I haven’t come across any by this particular translator so far though.

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