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Epub ISBN 9781409088370
Published by Vintage 2006
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Copyright © H. Aschehoug & Co (W. Nygaard) AS Oslo 2003
Translation copyright © Don Bartlett 2005
Jo Nesbø has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work
Lyrics from ‘I Got a War’ by Gluecifer
Reprinted by permission of Universal Music Publishing, AB, Sweden
Lyrics from ‘Noen Å Hate’
Music and lyrics: Michael Krohn © Air Chrysalis Norway AS.
Printed with permission
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without The publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
First published with the title
by H. Aschehoug & Co
(W. Nygaard), Oslo
First published in Great Britain in 2004 by Harvill Secker
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About the Author
Jo Nesbø is the recipient of numerous awards in his native Norway. In addition to being Norway’s most successful crime writer, he is also a musician, songwriter and economist. He lives in Oslo.
ALSO BY JO NESBØ
The house was built in 1898 on a clay base that had since sunk a tiny bit on the west-facing side, causing water to cross the wooden threshold where the door was hung. It ran across the bedroom floor and left a wet streak over the oak parquet, moving west. The flow rested for a second in a dip before more water nudged it from behind and it scurried like a nervous rat towards the skirting board. There the water went in both directions; it searched and somehow sneaked under the skirting until it found a gap between the end of the wooden flooring and the wall. In the gap lay a fivekroner coin bearing a profile of King Olav’s head and the date: 1987, the year before it had fallen out of the carpenter’s pocket. But these were the boom years; a great many attic flats had needed to be built at the drop of a hat and the carpenter had not bothered to look for it.
It did not take the water much time to find a way through the floor under the parquet. Apart from when there was a leak in 1968 – the same year a new roof was built on the house – the wooden floorboards had lain there undisturbed, drying and contracting so that the crack between the two innermost pine floorboards was now almost half a centimetre. The water dripped onto the beam beneath the crack and continued westwards and into the exterior wall. There it seeped into the plaster and the mortar that had been mixed one hundred years before, also in midsummer, by Jacob Andersen, a master bricklayer and father of five. Andersen, like all bricklayers in Oslo at that time, mixed his own mortar and wall plaster. Not only did he have his own unique blend of lime, sand and water, he also had his own special ingredients: horsehair and pig’s blood. Jacob Andersen was of the opinion that the hair and the blood held the plaster together and gave it extra strength. It was not his idea, he told his head-shaking colleagues at the time, his Scottish father and grandfather had used the same ingredients from sheep. Even though he had renounced his Scottish surname and taken on a trade name he saw no reason to turn his back on six hundred years of heritage. Some of the bricklayers considered it immoral, some thought he was in league with the Devil, but most just laughed at him. Perhaps it was one of the latter who spread the story that was to take hold in the burgeoning town of Kristania.
A coachman from Grünerløkka had married his cousin from Värmland and together they moved into a one-room flat plus kitchen in one of the apartment blocks in Seilduksgata that Andersen had helped to build. The couple’s first child was unlucky enough to be born with dark, curly hair and brown eyes, and since the couple were blond with blue eyes – and the man was jealous by nature as well – late one night he tied his wife’s hands behind her, took her down to the cellar and bricked her in. Her screams were effectively muffled by the thick walls where she stood bound and squeezed between the two brick surfaces. The husband had perhaps thought that she would suffocate from lack of oxygen, but bricklayers do allow for ventilation. In the end, the poor woman attacked the wall with her bare teeth. And that might well have worked because as the Scottish bricklayer used blood and hair, thinking that he could save on the expensive lime in the cement mix, the result was a porous wall that crumbled under the attack from strong Värmland teeth. However, her hunger for life sadly led to her taking excessively large mouthfuls of mortar and brick. Ultimately she was unable to chew, swallow or spit and the sand, pebbles and chunks of clay blocked her windpipe. Her face turned blue, her heartbeat slowed and then she stopped breathing.
She was what most people would call dead.
According to the myth, however, the taste of pig’s blood had the effect of making the unfortunate woman believe she was still alive. And with that she immediately broke free of the ropes that bound her, passed through the wall and began to walk again. A few old people from Grünerløkka still remember the story from their childhood, about the woman with the pig’s head, walking around with a knife to cut off the heads of small children who were out late. She had to have the taste of blood in her mouth so that she didn’t vanish into thin air. At the time very few people knew the name of the bricklayer and Andersen worked tirelessly at making his special blend of mortar. Three years later, while working on the building where the water was now leaking he fell from the scaffolding – leaving only two hundred kroner and a guitar – and so it was to be another hundred years before bricklayers began to use artificial hair-like fibres in their cement mixes and before technicians at a laboratory in Milan discovered that the walls of Jericho had been strengthened with blood and camel hair.