Read Dregs Online

Authors: Jørn Lier Horst


Jorn Lier Horst
was born in 1970, in Bamble, Telemark, Norway. He has worked as a policeman in Larvik since 1995. His debut novel in 2004,
Key Witness
, was based on a true murder story. The William Wisting novel series -
Key Witness
Goodbye, Felicia
When the Sea Calms
The Only One
(2007), and
The Night Man
(2009) - has been extremely successful in his native Norway as well as Germany and the Netherlands. In addition to the William Wisting novels Horst has begun the Hunter series with
Codename Hunter
(2008). He has also written a book for children about police investigation procedures, and has been actively involved in giving talks in schools to raise awareness and improve community involvement.
is his first book published in English.

Located on the Isle of Arran in Scotland,
Anne Bruce
formerly worked in education and has a longstanding love of Scandinavia and Norway in particular. She studied Norwegian and English at Glasgow University, covering both nynorsk and bokmal language and literature, as well as Old Norse, Icelandic, Swedish and Danish. She has travelled extensively in Scandinavia and undertaken translation and interpretation work, recently translating two contemporary novels.

Praise for Jorn Lier Horst’s

Jorn Lier Horst has, right from his debut in 2004, set a sensationally good pace in his crime novels, and has today gained entry into the circle of our very best writers in that genre.

‘Dregs’ is his sixth crime novel, and he has continued to stay within Vestfold, where Chief Inspector William Wisting maintains law and order …

However, there is one thing to which Wisting most certainly cannot reconcile himself - ‘It was probably reaching the point where crime was beginning to pay. Criminality in the country was growing faster than ever before, and he saw no sign of effective counter-measures. On the contrary, the police and courts of law continued to corrode. The rule of law in society was in the process of capitulation.’

Yes indeed, Jorn Lier Horst has once more written a well-founded and tense crime novel, with space for both the expected and the downright surprising. At his best, the author is both a sociologist and a philosopher.

Terje Stemland,
, Norway

Chief Inspector of Police William Wisting has investigated murders and serious crimes for a number of decades, but has never experienced anything like this. Can the feet really come from four different murder victims? Missing persons?

Just as good are the descriptions of the characters in Jorn Lier Horst’s book. They are nuanced and interesting, absolutely human. Many have known it for a long time, but now it ought to be acknowledged as a truth for all readers of crime fiction: William Wisting is one of the great investigators in Norwegian crime novels.

Norwegian Book Club

(Book of the Month, Crime and Thrillers)

It is clear to me why Jorn Lier Horst writes such good crime novels. He knows what is demanded to create tension in the reader. Investigation is his profession. He also knows that even the most seemingly insoluble mystery can be solved if you can find the right angle of thinking. All the same, I’m impressed once again that he has created such a sterling crime mystery as ‘Dregs’. For he hasn’t only made use of his comprehensive knowledge, he has also done it with creative finesse.

Marius Aronsen, Secretary of
Riverton Club
, Norway

Once more Jorn Lier Horst has produced a sound criminal narrative with an intricate plot, an action-packed story with Chief Inspector William Wisting as a credible central character. Jorn Lier Horst has the great advantage of his own experiences as a police investigator, and is able to bring real authenticity to such aspects as investigative methodology and tactical planning. And so “Dregs” falls in line alongside the series of crime novels from Lier Horst’s pen, all well worth recommending …

Along with a steadily increasing readership, I’m already looking forward to his next.

Svend E. Hansen
, Ostlandsposten
, Norway

By the same author

Key Witness
, 2004)

Felicia Forsvant
(Goodbye, Felicia, 2005)

Nar Havet Stilner
(When the Sea Calms, 2006)

Den Eneste Ene
(The Only One, 2007)

(The Night Man, 2009)


Jorn Lier Horst

Translated from the Norwegian by

Anne Bruce

First published in Great Britain 2011

Sandstone Press Ltd

PO Box 5725

One High Street



IV15 9WJ

All rights reserved.

No part of this production may be reproduced,

stored or transmitted in any form without the express

written permission of the publisher.

English Language Editor: Robert Davidson

Copyright (c) Jorn Lier Horst 2010

Translation (c) Anne Bruce 2011

The right of Jorn Lier Horst to be identified as

the Author of this Work has been asserted by her in accordance

with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

This translation has been published with the financial support of NORLA.

The publisher acknowledges subsidy from

Creative Scotland towards publication of this volume.

ISBN (e): 978-1-905207-72-5

Cover by River Design, Edinburgh, from an original design by

Kulseth & Co, Oslo.

Ebook by Iolaire Typesetting, Newtonmore.

In memory of Oddvar Lier Olsen


The report was phoned in to the police switchboard in Tonsberg on Tuesday 22nd June at 09.32 hours. William Wisting had just left the doctor’s surgery when the assignment arrived over the police radio. Now he was standing with fine-grained sand in his shoes, using his hand to shade the sunlight from his eyes, the third policeman to reach the discovery site.

Waves broke against the shore in front of him and rolled back to sea. Bare rock faces, smooth and slippery wet, sloped gently into the water on either side of the bay. Two uniformed colleagues had cordoned off the western side of the bathing beach.

This early in the morning there were only a few people around, a small group of onlookers comprising no more than twelve or thirteen people, mostly children. One of the policemen had taken aside a heavily built boy with red, bristling hair and a face full of freckles. The boy was trying to control a small black terrier on a lead with one hand, while pointing and gesticulating with the other.

Wisting let his eye rest on one of the few seagulls flying in wide, sluggish circles over the bay, as if he wanted to take a short break before filling his lungs with salt air and bringing his concentration to bear on another lengthy and demanding task.

A training shoe at the water’s edge rolled backwards and forwards, looking as if it was going to be pulled out to sea each time the sand slid beneath it, only to be thrown back to shore with each new wave. Seaweed had entangled itself tightly around the laces, which were still tied, and the sole had a covering of brown algae. The remains of a human foot protruded from the shoe. Shrimp fry and other small forms of sea life crawled around, catching hold wherever they could. Wisting allowed his eye to take flight again, staring at the thin, grey line separating the sea from the sky. On the misty horizon he could make out the outline of a cargo ship.

A small van drove onto the grassy plain at the back of the shore, halting beside the police patrol car. Espen Mortensen stepped out, then leaned in again to pull out a camera case. Wisting nodded in welcome to the young crime technician. Mortensen reciprocated and opened the side door of the crime scene vehicle. He brought out a spade and a white plastic tub before approaching his colleague. ‘Another one?’ he asked, putting down the spade on the sand.

‘Another one,’ Wisting confirmed, squatting beside the macabre discovery while Mortensen got his camera ready. The foot looked as if it had been torn or pulled from the rest of the body at the ankle joint, but was still held tightly by the training shoe. Tendrils of thick, leathery skin unfolded on either side. Among the grey-white mass of flesh at the bottom of the shoe he could see pale scraps of bone and part of what might be a ligament covering the heel.

Wisting had seen it all before. This was the second severed foot that had been washed up in his district recently. He stood up and glanced at the crime technician. ‘They don’t belong together,’ he said positively. Mortensen remained standing with a lens in his hand, looking down at the shoe.

‘What do you mean? I think it looks exactly the same as the first.’

‘That’s the problem,’ Wisting nodded. ‘It’s a left shoe. The first one was too.’ He bent over and examined the contents of the shoe once more. ‘Besides, this one has a white tennis sock. The first had a black sock.’

Espen Mortensen swore and hunched over the shoe as it bobbed up and down in the waves. ‘You’re right,’ he agreed. ‘I think this one’s a couple of sizes bigger too. That means …’

They both understood what this meant. The body parts were from two unknown corpses that probably were still floating on the sea.

Mortensen took several photographs from different angles before putting the camera back into its case, gripping the spade and digging into the sand beneath the shoe. A little sand, a couple of shells and some seawater flowed with it into the tub.

The policeman who had been questioning the red-haired boy approached them, quickly summing up the boy’s story of how he had found the shoe while walking his dog a short time earlier. ‘We’re organising a search of the shore,’ he said. ‘The rest of the body might float to land anywhere at all. There will be lots of children here today. The Red Cross has promised to come here with a search party within an hour.’

Wisting nodded his approval. After the previous foot had been found they had searched the coastline without any result. Perhaps they would be luckier this time. A large wave rolled far up the shore, and he had to take a few steps back to avoid getting wet. When it rolled back it wiped his footsteps from the damp sand.

He drew his hand through his thick, dark hair and looked out to sea again. He had experienced a great deal in life, but this time he could feel his heart beat a bit faster.


The map that lay unfolded over the conference table had a red cross on the outermost southern tip of Stavernsoya island. Wisting grabbed the felt-tip pen and marked a new cross on the bay beside the south-facing ramparts of the old fortifications and shipyard buildings in the old part of Stavern.

Nils Hammer was right at his shoulder. ‘Another
foot?’ he asked doubtfully.

Wisting nodded, pulling a bundle of photographs out of an envelope and spreading them across the map. All were of the same subject, a blue training shoe with an upper made of a synthetic material, padded edges and the manufacturer’s name, Scarpa Marco. On both sides the shoe was emblazoned with red, contrasting stripes, faded after the time in the seawater.

What little doubt there had been was gone. The shoe that was found out on Stavernsoya island six days before was of the same make and model as the one that was now sitting on the metal bench in Espen Mortensen’s crime laboratory. As the crow flies, there was barely a kilometre between the two discovery sites.

Wisting had delegated the first investigation and not involved himself closely. The detectives’ principal theory was that the foot was from a boating accident in the Skagerrak. Forensics thought that it could have been in the water for between six and ten months. The work so far had consisted of charting all persons missing from this stretch of coast over the last year. The first thought Wisting had, when shoe and foot number two turned up, was that they were a pair, but then it emerged that they were both left feet.

The coffee machine had not quite finished its work. Nils Hammer impatiently filled a paper mug while it was still sputtering. ‘We’re no longer talking about some kind of accident, are we?’ he asked.

Wisting did not answer, but was in agreement that they had to come up with new theories.

Hammer swigged the warm coffee. ‘A drugs reckoning,’ he suggested.

Nils Hammer was in his mid-forties, with broad shoulders, a barrel chest and dark blond hair. He worked as leader of the narcotics division, and in his view most things were connected in one way or another with drugs crime. His dark eyes gave him a sceptical expression. Often it was enough for him to stare at a suspect to extract a confession, simply to escape that intense gaze.

‘It doesn’t need to be something criminal,’ Wisting reminded him.

Hammer sat down and put his feet on the table. ‘It’s criminal to cut off someone’s feet, whether they are living or dead.’

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