The Owl Always Hunts At Night: A Novel by Samuel BjorkThe Owl Always Hunts At Night: A Novel by Samuel Bjork

The Owl Always Hunts At Night: A Novel

bySamuel Bjork

Paperback | June 6, 2017

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The thrilling follow-up to Samuel Bjørk’s internationally bestselling I'm Traveling Alone, which The Wall Street Journal calls “tense and smartly constructed” 

When a troubled teenager disappears from an orphanage and is found murdered, her body arranged on a bed of feathers, veteran investigator Holger Munch and his team are called into the case. Star investigator Mia Kruger, on temporary leave while she continues to struggle with her own demons, jumps back on the team and dives headfirst into this case: just in time to decode the clues in a disturbing video of the victim before she was killed, being held prisoner like an animal in a cage.

Meanwhile, Munch’s daughter, Miriam, meets an enticing stranger at a party—a passionate animal rights activist who begins to draw her into his world and away from her family. 

Munch, Kruger, and the team must hunt down the killer before he can strike again in this sophisticated, intricately plotted psychological thriller by the newest phenomenon in international crime fiction.
Samuel Bjørk is the pen name of Norwegian novelist, playwright, and singer/songwriter Frode Sander Øien. Øien wrote his first stageplay at the age of twenty-one and has since written two highly acclaimed novels, released six albums, written five plays, and translated Shakespeare, all in his native Norway. Øien is the author of I’m Trav...
Title:The Owl Always Hunts At Night: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 8.24 × 5.42 × 0.75 inPublished:June 6, 2017Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143110403

ISBN - 13:9780143110408

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome This is just an awesome read, I read this in one sitting. This is a must read!!
Date published: 2017-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Can't wait to read This will be a really good novel, I can't wait to read it.
Date published: 2017-05-18

Read from the Book

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof*** Copyright © 2017 Samuel Bjork The little girl lay as still as she could on the sofa under the blanket while she waited for the other children to fall asleep. She had made up her mind. She would do it tonight. She would be scared no longer. Wait no longer. She was seven years old and very grown up. She would leave once it started to get dark. She had not swallowed tonight’s sleeping pill. Just pushed it under her tongue, where she had kept it when she showed Aunt Julia what a good girl she’ d been.“Show me.” Tongue out.“Good girl. Next.”Her brother had been doing it for a long time. Ever since they’ dlocked him in the beaten-earth cellar. Every night he would hide the pillunder his tongue without swallowing it.“Show me.”Tongue out.“Good boy. Next.”Three weeks in the dark for refusing to say sorry. All the childrenknew that he had done nothing wrong, but the grown-ups had put himin the cellar just the same. Since that time he had changed. Every nighthe would slip the pill under his tongue without swallowing it, and as herown pill started to take effect and she grew sleepy, she would see hisshadow tiptoe out of the room and disappear.The little girl waited until she could hear that the other children wereasleep before she sneaked out of the house. It was winter now and stillwarm, though the twilight had settled softly between the trees. The littlegirl walked barefoot across the yard, keeping to the shadows until shewas hidden by the trees. Having made sure that she hadn’t been spotted,she’ d run along the track between the big trees down toward the gatethat bore the warning “Trespassers will be prosecuted.” This was whereshe’ d decided to start her search.She had heard her brother and one of the other boys whisper about   6                                                                                         Samuel Bjork this. An old, ramshackle shed, a small, forgotten cabin on the far side of the estate, but she had never seen it herself. They were awakened at six o’clock in the morning every day and went to bed at nine o’clock every night. Always the exact same routine, no variations, with only two fifteen-minute breaks from lessons, homework, yoga, laundry, and all the chores that had to be done. The little girl smiled at the sound of the crickets, and she felt the soft grass tickle her feet as she veered from the path and moved cautiously along the fence toward the place that she, in her mind’s eye, had decided must be the likely location of the cabin. For some reason she was not scared. She felt almost light; the terror would not set in until later, but right now she felt happy, free as a bird, all alone with her thoughts in the beautiful forest that smelled so good. She smiled broadly and trailed her fingers over a plant that resembled a star; it was almost like being in one of the dreams she often had when the pills they were given weren’t very strong. She ducked under a branch and didn’t even jump when she heard rustling in the nearby bushes. Perhaps a ko- ala bear had ventured down from the trees. She giggled to herself and wondered what it would be like to pet a koala. She knew that they had sharp claws and that they were not cuddly at all, but she tried to imag- ine what it must feel like anyway, the fluffy warm fur between her fin- gers, the soft nose tickling her neck—she almost forgot why she’ d come outside before she suddenly remembered and stopped in her tracks when the wall of the cabin came into view only a short distance ahead of her. The little girl tilted her head and studied the gray wooden boards. So it was true. There was a place in the forest. A place where you could hide. Be on your own. She crept cautiously closer to the hut and felt a delight- ful tingling under her skin as she approached the door.The little girl did not know that the sight awaiting her would change her forever, that it would haunt her every single night for years to come, under the blanket on the hard sofa, on the plane crossing the globe after the police discovered the crying children, under the duvet in the soft bed in a new country where the sounds were different. She knew nothing about this as she reached out her hand toward the wooden handle and slowly opened the creaking door.It was dark inside. It took a few seconds before her eyes allowed her   The Owl Always Hunts at Night                                                           7 to see properly, but there was no doubt. At first just an outline, and then everything came into focus; he was inside.Her brother.He wore no clothes. He was completely naked. Completely naked,and yet his body was covered by . . . feathers? He was curled up in a cor-ner, a birdlike, crooked creature from another world with something inhis mouth. A small animal. A mouse? Her brother was covered in feath-ers and held a dead mouse between his teeth.This was the image that would change her life. Her brother turnedslowly and looked at her, his eyes filled with wonder as if they did notknow who she was. The light fell through the filthy window across hisfeather-clad hand, which was moving slowly through the air. His mouthturned into a grin over glistening white teeth as he took out the mouseand locked his dead eyes onto hers and said:“I’m the owl.” 1  Tom Petterson, a botanist, took the camera bag from his car and paused to enjoy the view across the calm fjord before heading up to the woods. It was early October,  and the cool Saturday sunshine bathed the land- scape around him in a pretty glow, soft rays falling across the red and yellow autumn leaves that would soon be shed to make way for winter.Tom  Petterson loved his job. Especially when he was able to work outdoors. He had been hired by Oslo and Akershus County to register findings of Dracocephalum—or dragonhead, as it was also known—a plant  threatened  by  extinction  but  which   grew  in  the  woodlands around Oslofjord. He had received a fresh tip-off about the location of some via his blog, and that was his task for today: log the number and exact location of newly discovered specimens of this very rare plant.Dragonhead  grew to a height of ten to fifteen centimeters  and had blue, dark blue, or purple flowers, which would wither in the autumn, leaving behind a cluster of brown seeds reminiscent of a cereal grass. Not only was the plant rare, it was also home to the even rarer dragonhead sap beetle, a tiny metallic blue beetle that fed only on these flowers. The miracles of nature, Tom Petterson thought, and he could not help smiling as he left the path and followed the route along which an observant ama- teur biologist had sent him. Sometimes—he  never said it out loud, be- cause he’d been brought up to believe that there was absolutely no God, his parents had been insistent on that, but even so—he could not help but marvel at it: the wonder of creation. The delicate relationship between all things, from the smallest to the biggest. Birds flying south every autumn to nest, vast distances to the same place every year. The leaves changing color every autumn, turning the trees and the ground into a living work of art. No, he would never say it out loud, but the thought would often cross his mind.He turned right between two tall spruces and followed a brook up toward the location where the plants were supposed  to be, smiling to himself again.   12                                                                                       Samuel Bjork He crossed the brook and came to a complete standstill when he heard rustling in the shrub in front of him. Petterson raised his cam- era, ready to shoot. A badger? Was that what he’d heard? This shy ani- mal was nowhere near as common  as people thought. A good picture of a badger would be great for his blog, and it would make a nice story—some  dragonheads  and a badger, the perfect Saturday trip. He followed the noise and soon found himself in a small clearing but was disappointed at not seeing any animals.Yet there was something in the middle of the clearing.A naked body.A girl.A teenager?Tom  Petterson  was  so  shocked  that he  dropped  his camera  andnever noticed it falling into the heather.There was a dead girl in the clearing.Feathers?Dear Lord.There was a naked teenage girl in the forest.Surrounded by feathers.A white lily in her mouth.Tom  Petterson spun around, stumbled through the dense vegeta-tion, found the path, ran as fast as he could back down to his car, andcalled the police.  2  Homicide  investigator Holger Munch  was sitting in his car outside his former home in Røa, deeply regretting having agreed to come over. He had lived in the white house with his then wife, Marianne,  until ten years ago, and he had not been inside since. The portly investigator lit a cigarette and rolled down  the window  of the car. He’d  had his an- nual health check  a few days ago, and the doctor had recommended, yet again, that he cut down  on fatty foods and quit smoking, but the   The Owl Always Hunts at Night                                                            13 fifty-four-year-old  police officer had absolutely no intention of doing so, especially not the latter. Holger Munch  needed cigarettes in order to think, and thinking was what he enjoyed more than anything.Munch loved chess, crossword puzzles, math conundrums— anything to stimulate his brain cells. He would often sit in front of his laptop, chatting online to friends about chess games or solving brain teasers. Just now he had received an email from his friend Yuri, a pro- fessor from Minsk whom he’d met online some years ago. There is a metal pole in a lake. Half the pole is in the seabed. A third of it is underwater. Eight meters of the pole protrude above the water. What’s the total length of the pole? Best wishes, Y. Munch  pondered  the answer  and was about to reply to the email when he was interrupted by his cell phone ringing. He checked the dis- play. Mikkelson. His boss at Oslo Police Headquarters in Grønland. Munch  let the phone  ring for a few seconds;  he considered  taking the call but ultimately decided to ignore it. He pressed the red button and re- turned the phone to his pocket. Family time now. That was the mistake he’d made a decade ago. He had not spent enough time with his family. He had worked  around the clock, and even when he was at home, his mind had been on other things. Because of that he found himself out- side the house where Marianne now lived with another man.Holger Munch scratched his beard and looked up in the rearview mirror at the big pink present with golden ribbons in the backseat. It was his granddaughter Marion’s birthday. The six-year-old  apple of his eye. The real reason he had agreed to drive up to Røa, although he’d sworn  never  to set foot in the house  ever again. Munch  took a deep drag on his cigarette and realized he was rubbing his finger where his wedding ring used to be. He had worn it for ten years after the breakup, unable to make himself take it off. Marianne. She’d been the love of his life. He had imagined that they would always be together, and he’d not gone on a single date since the divorce. There were opportunities. It had never felt right. But he’d done it now. Removed his wedding ring. It was in the medicine cabinet at home. He still couldn’t throw it away.Holger  Munch  heaved  a sigh, took another drag on his cigarette,   14                                                                                       Samuel Bjork and stole another quick look at the pink present. He had probably gone overboard—again.  His daughter, Miriam, constantly reproached  him for  spoiling  little  Marion.   Giving   her  anything  she  wanted.  He’d bought her a present that he knew Miriam would disapprove of, but it was something his granddaughter had set her heart on. A Barbie doll with a massive Barbie house and her own Barbie car. He could already hear the lecture. About  spoiled children. About  the female body and role models and unattainable ideals, but for Christ’s sake, it was only a doll! What harm could it do if it was what the little girl wanted?His cell rang again—Mikkelson  for the second time—and again Munch  pressed the red button. When it rang a third time, he was tempted to pick up, because the caller was Mia Krüger. He was ex- tremely fond of his younger colleague, yet still he did not take the call. He  had to put his family first. He  would  call her back later. Perhaps they could have a cup of tea at Justisen sometime tonight? A good talk with Mia  after the family reunion  would  probably do him good. He had not spoken to her for ages, and he only now realized how much he missed her.Six months ago he went to bring Mia back from an island off the coast of Trøndelag. She had isolated herself from the world, no tele- phone. He’d had to fly all the way up to Værnes, rent a car, and get the local police to sail him to the island to find her. He’d brought with him a case file. It had persuaded her to return with him to the capital.Holger Munch  prided himself on the strength of his team, but Mia Krüger was unique. He had hired her while she was at the police acad- emy, still in her early twenties, after a tip from the dean, an old col- league.  Holger  Munch  had  met  her  in  a café,  an  informal  meeting away  from  police  headquarters.  Mia  Krüger.  A  young  woman  in  a white sweater and tight black pants, with long dark hair and the brightest blue eyes he’d ever seen. Intelligent, self-assured, and poised. He was taken with her at once. She seemed to have guessed that he was there to test her, and yet she had answered his questions politely, with a glint in her eye: Do you think I’m dumb or something?Mia  Krüger  had lost her twin sister, Sigrid, many  years ago. She was found dead from a heroin overdose  in a basement in Tøyen.  Mia   The Owl Always Hunts at Night                                                            15 had  blamed  Sigrid’s  boyfriend  for  her  death,  and  during  a  routine search  of a camper  van  by Try vann  some  years later they had hap- pened to bump into him, now with another victim by his side. Mia Krüger had killed the boyfriend with two shots to the chest, a crime of passion. Holger  Munch  had witnessed  the shooting and knew that it could be justified as self-defense on Mia’s part, but as a result of his backing her he was transferred out of the city as punishment and Mia had been hospitalized. After two years in the sticks, Munch had finally been  reinstated as head  of the investigative  unit in Mariboesgate  in Oslo. In turn he had reinstated Mia. However, after that first case back on the job, Mikkelson  still had concerns. He’d suspended Mia for a second time, with orders that she not set foot inside the building until she had seen a psychologist willing to declare her fit for duty.Munch rejected yet another call from his boss in Grønland and continued  to look at himself in the mirror. What was he really doing here? It had been ten years.You’re an idiot, Holger Munch. Mia’s not the only one who should be seeing a therapist.Munch  sighed again and got out of the car. It had grown colder. Summer was definitely over. Autumn, too, it would appear, though October  had barely begun. He pulled his duffel coat across his stom- ach, took out his cell phone, and replied to Yuri. 48 meters ;) HM He finished his cigarette, picked up the extravagant present from the back of the car, took two deep breaths, and slowly made his way up the gravel path.  3  The lips of the man  with  the thin mustache  were  moving,  but Mia Krüger  could  not  be bothered  to listen to him.  His  words  failed to reach  her ears. She  missed  the seagulls. The smell  of the sea as the   16                                                                                       Samuel Bjork waves crashed against the rocks. The silence. Yet again she wondered why she was putting herself through this. Seeing a therapist. Talking about herself. What good would that do? She took another throat loz- enge from her pocket, and regretted for the umpteenth time ever agreeing to therapy in the first place. She should have quit on the spot.Unstable and unfit for duty.Bloody Mikkelson.  He didn’t know which way was up. He’d neverworked a case. He’d gotten the job only because he knew how to suckup to politicians.Mia  sighed and tried to work out what the man behind  the deskhad said. She was clearly supposed to respond, but she hadn’t heard hisquestion.“What  do  you  think?”  she  said  as  she  remembered  the  waitingroom filled with magazines whose covers made no sense to her. Mind-fulness and Wellness. Easy Ways to Fitness.“The pills?” the therapist said, possibly  for the third time, as heleaned back in his chair and took off his glasses.It was a sign of intimacy. A signal that she was safe here. Mia sighedand placed the lozenge on her tongue. He really had no clue as to whohe was dealing with, did he? Ever since she was a little girl, she’d beenable to look inside people’s  heads. It was the reason she was missingthe seagulls. No  evil to be found in them. Only  nature. Waves  crash-ing against rocks. The sound of silence and nothing else.“Good,” Mia said, hoping it was the right answer.“So you’ve  stopped  taking them?”  the therapist said, putting  hisglasses back on.“Haven’t been taking them for weeks.”“And the drinking?”“Haven’t touched a drop for ages,” Mia said, lying again.She looked at the clock above his head, at the hands moving far tooslowly,  telling  her  she  was  doomed  to  stay  here  awhile  longer.  Sheloathed  Mikkelson.   And  this  psychologist.  But  she  couldn’t  blamehim. He was only trying to help. And he was said to be one of the goodones. Mattias  Wang.  She’d  been  incredibly  lucky—she  had picked  a   The Owl Always Hunts at Night                                                            17 name  from the Internet after agreeing to give therapy a try. No  way was  she  going  to see one  of the people  available through  the police force. Patient confidentiality at police HQ?  Not likely, not for her, not for Mia Krüger.“I guess we ought to talk about Sigrid?”Mia had dropped her guard slightly, but now the armor was backon. No  matter how nice and empathetic  he was, Mia was not here totalk about her feelings. She was here to get back to work. Have the re-quired sessions with a psychologist. Get the piece of paper she needed.She seems in good health, conversations are meaning ful, she’s workingon her issues. I recommend that she be reinstated to full duties, effectiveimmediately.She smiled to herself, and in her mind she gave Mikkelson the finger.Unfit for duty.Screw you, had been her first thought, but after five weeks alone inthe  new  apartment  she’d  bought  in  Bislett, surrounded  by  movingboxes she didn’t have the energy to open, trapped in a body still scream-ing for the pills she’d drugged  it with for so long, she finally backeddown. She had lost everyone she loved. Sigrid. Her mother. Her father.Her grandmother. The only person missing from the cemetery outsideÅsgårdstrand was her. All she had wanted was to leave this world. Saygood-bye  to all this misery. But then Mia began to realize that she hadgrown fond of her colleagues. Being back at work after her solitary ex-istence on the island had made her believe that it might be possible togo on, that life might be worthwhile after all. At least she was preparedto give it a go. For a while. Her colleagues were fine people. Good  peo-ple. People she actually cared about.Munch.  Curry. Kim. Anette. Ludvig Grønlie. Gabriel Mørk.“Sigrid,” the man behind the desk prompted her.“Yes?” Mia said, as her thoughts wandered back to the girl she hadseen leave the consulting room, the appointment before her, probablyfifteen years separating them  but equally ashamed.  That’s right, me,too. I’m not normal either.“We need to, don’t we?”   18                                                                             Samuel Bjork Sigrid KrügerSister, friend, and daughterBorn November 11, 1979. Died April 18, 2002.Much loved. Deeply missed. The therapist took off his glasses again and leaned back in his chair once more.“We ought to talk about her soon, don’t you think?”Mia  zipped  up  her  leather jacket  as she  pointed  to the clock  onthe wall.“Definitely.” She nodded with a small smile. “But it’ll have to waituntil next time.”Mattias Wang  looked  almost disappointed  when  he realized thatthe hands of the clock were telling him the appointment was over.“Yes, of course,” he said, putting down his pen on the notepad onthe desk in front of him. “Same time next week?”“Okay.”“Because it’s important that—” he started, but Mia was already gone.  4  Holger  Munch  felt irritable but also relieved when  he entered his for- mer marital home. Irritation at having agreed to this, celebrating Mar- ion’s birthday here. Relief because he had dreaded being surrounded by old memories;  he could not have known  how he would  react, but the house he was inside now bore little resemblance to the one he remem- bered. They had renovated. Knocked down walls. Painted different col- ors. To his surprise, Munch found his old home very attractive, and the more he looked around, the calmer he grew. Nor could he see any signs of Rolf, the teacher from Hurum. Perhaps the afternoon would not be so bad after all?Marianne  had met him  in the doorway  with the same  facial ex-   The Owl Always Hunts at Night                                                            19 pression as on every other occasion they were forced to spend time together, be it confirmations, birthdays, or funerals, with a polite and pleasant  hello.  No  hugging  or  signs  of  affection, but  nor  had  there been any signs of bitterness, disappointment, or hatred in her eyes, emotions that had certainly characterized the early days of their di- vorce. Just a measured yet pleasant smile: Welcome, Holger. Why don’t you take a seat in the living room. I’m just decorating Marion’s cake, six candles. Can you believe she’s growing up so fast?Munch  hung  up his duffel coat in the hallway  and was  about to carry the present into the living room when he heard a high-pitched squeal followed by eager little footsteps coming down the stairs.“Granddad!”Marion raced toward him and gave him a big hug.“Is that for me?” the little girl exclaimed, her eyes widening as shegaped at the present.“Happy birthday.” Munch  smiled and stroked his granddaughter’shair. “So what’s it like to be six years old?”“Not very different. Actually, it’s almost like yesterday, when I wasfive.” Marion  smiled precociously,  never once  taking her eyes off thepresent. “Can I open it now, Granddad, right now? Oh, please may I?”“We should probably wait until we’ve sung ‘Happy Birthday,’” saidMiriam, who had also come downstairs with Marion.His daughter came over to Munch  and hugged him.“I’m glad you could come, Dad. How are you?”“I’m well,” Munch  said, helping her carry the big present into theliving room, to a table holding several other boxes.“Oh, they’re all for me, please, please can we open them soon?” thelittle girl pleaded. It was clear she felt she had already been made  towait far too long.Munch looked at his daughter, who returned his smile. The warmthin her eyes did him good. After the divorce their relationship had beenfar from easy, but the hatred his daughter  had felt for him all thoseyears was slowly fading.Ten years. A frosty relationship between father and daughter. Because   20                                                                                       Samuel Bjork of the divorce. Because he had been working too hard. And yet, oddly, it was his job that had brought them closer to each other again, almost as if there were some  kind of justice in the world. A major case less than six months ago, possibly the most serious his unit had ever inves- tigated, where  Miriam  and  Marion  had  been  directly  involved.  The five-year-old   girl  had   been   abducted;   Munch   had   feared   that  it would only widen the gap between them, that his daughter would hold him accountable for this as with everything else, but the opposite had happened.  Miriam  had not blamed  him  once;  she was only  grateful that the unit had solved the case. A newfound  respect. He thought he could see it in her eyes, the way she looked at him. Things were differ- ent  now.  She  finally  understood  how  important  his  job  was.  They had  had  therapy,  both  of them,  Miriam  and  Marion,  with  a skilled police psychologist, to help them process the terrible events, but fortu- nately Marion’s  ordeal seemed not to have left deep scars in the little girl. Too young to understand how badly things could have ended, perhaps. Yes, there’d been some troubled nights, Marion crying after waking from distressing nightmares, but they’d quickly passed. It had been worse for her mother, of course, and Miriam had continued with the sessions on her own for a while. Perhaps she still went—he wasn’t sure,  since   they   were   not   so  close   that  she   told  him   absolutely everything, but at least they were heading in that direction. One  step at a time.“Where  is Johannes?”  Munch  asked when  they had sat down  on the sofa.“Oh, he was on duty, and they called from Ullevål Hospital, so he had to go in. He’ll try to get back if he can. It’s not easy when you’re an important person, you know,” his daughter said with a wink.Munch  thanked her with a friendly smile.“The  cake  is  ready,”  Marianne   announced,   entering  the  livingroom with a smile on her lips as well.Holger Munch  watched her furtively. He did not want to stare, butneither was he able to take his eyes off her completely.  She made eyecontact with him for a moment, and Munch  was overcome  by the de-sire to drag her to the kitchen and hold her tight, just like in the old   The Owl Always Hunts at Night                                                            21 days, but he managed to restrain himself. Marion, who also had trou- ble controlling herself, though for different reasons, provided a wel- come distraction.“Please  let me  open  it? Presents  are more  important  than  some silly song.”“We have to sing ‘Happy  Birthday’ and blow out the candles first, you know that,” Marianne said, stroking her granddaughter’s hair. “Besides, we need to wait until everyone  is here, so we can all see the nice things you’ll be getting.”Marianne,  Miriam,  Marion,  and  him.  Holger  Munch  could  not have wished for a better setting for a more pleasant afternoon. How- ever, his ex-wife’s  words, that they needed  to wait for everyone, were like a line from a play, a cue for someone to make an entrance. And at that instant the front door duly opened, and there was Rolf, the teacher from Hurum, holding a huge bouquet of flowers in his hands and grinning from ear to ear.“Hi, Rolf!” Marion chirped as she raced to the door and threw her arms around him.Munch  felt a pang of jealousy as he saw his granddaughter’s small arms embrace the man he absolutely loathed. He prized the little girl more than anything in the world, and as far as she was concerned,  it had always been like this: Granddad  on his own. Granny and Rolf to- gether.“Look how many presents I’ve got!”She dragged Rolf into the living room so that he could admire thedisplay.“How nice,” he said, stroking her hair.“Are they also for me?” Marion smiled, pointing to the big bouquetof flowers in his hand.“No, they’re for Granny,” Rolf said, looking over his shoulder at ablushing Marianne, who was watching them from the doorway.Munch  saw how his ex-wife looked at Rolf. And it was all over. Thegood feeling. Playing happy families. He stood up to shake Rolf ’s handand watched as the man he despised gave his ex-wife  the extravagantflowers and kissed her cheek.   22                                                                             Samuel Bjork Fortunately, Marion  came  to his rescue  for the second  time. Her face now red with excitement, she refused to wait any longer.“Oh, please can we get that singing over with?” the little girl im- plored them.They sang hurriedly, Marion was not paying attention in any case. She blew out the candles on her cake and attacked her presents.Less than thirty minutes later, the little girl was done and was sitting quite exhausted in front of her spoils. The Barbie doll had been a big hit. Marion had flung her arms around Munch’s neck, and though he’d expected a reproachful look from Miriam for ignoring her wishes— again—it  never  came.  His  daughter  had  merely  smiled,  almost  as  a thank-you, and made him feel that everything was all right.There  was  one  awkward   moment   after  the  presents  had  been opened. Marianne  and Rolf were sitting on the sofa across the coffee table, and there was pressure to engage in conversation  that none  of them really wanted, but Munch  was saved by his cell phone. It was Mikkelson,  and for once his timing was perfect. Munch  made his ex- cuses and went outside, lit a much-needed cigarette, and took the call.“Yes?”“Have  you  stopped  answering   your  phone?”  an  irritable  voicegrunted on the other end.“Family time,” Munch  replied.“How  nice,” Mikkelson  quipped. “However,  I’m afraid I’ll have towreck your family time. I need you.”“What’s happened?” Munch  asked, now curious.“A 233. Teenage girl,” Mikkelson  continued, less acerbic now.“Where?” Munch  said.“On the outskirts of Hurum. A scientist found her earlier today.”Munch  took a deep drag on his cigarette. He could hear little Mar-ion  laugh  on  the  other  side  of  the  door.  Someone  was  chasing  heraround the house, probably that idiot who’d usurped his place. Munchshook  his  head  irritably. Celebrate  Marion’s  birthday  in  his  formermarital house. What had he been thinking?“I need you to go there at once,” Mikkelson  said.   The Owl Always Hunts at Night                                                          23 “Okay, I’m on my way,” Munch  said, ending the call.He discarded  his cigarette and was about to go back inside whenthe door opened and Miriam appeared.“Is everything  all right, Dad?”  his daughter  said, looking  at himwith a frown.“What? Oh, yes . . . It’s just . . . work.”“Okay,” Miriam said. “I thought I would just—”“What, Miriam?” Munch  said impatiently, but he checked himselfand patted her shoulder affectionately.“Prepare you for the big announcement,”  his daughter said, avoid-ing eye contact.“What announcement?”“They’re getting married,” Miriam said swiftly, still evading him.“Who?”“Mom  and Rolf. I tried telling her that now might not be the besttime to announce it, but . . .”Miriam was looking at him now, clearly worried.“So are you coming inside?”“I got a case,” Munch  said abruptly, not knowing what else to say.Getting married? The afternoon had started out with such promiseand he’d . . . well, what had he really been hoping for? He got annoyedwith himself. What was he thinking? There clearly was no fool like anold fool. But now he had something else to focus on.“So you’re off ?” Miriam said.“Yes.” Munch  nodded.“Hang  on, I’ll go get your coat,” Miriam  said, returning with hisduffel coat shortly afterward.“You’ll  have  to  pass  on  my  congratulations,”  Munch   mumbled,making a beeline for his car.“Phone me, won’t you? I want to talk to you about something. It’simportant  to  me.  When  it’s convenient  for  you,  promise?”  Miriamcalled out after him.“Of course, Miriam. I’ll phone,” Munch  said as he quickly got intothe black Audi and started the engine.   24                                                                                       Samuel Bjork  5  It was barely five o’clock in the afternoon, and yet it was nearly pitch- black when Holger Munch  reached the police tapes on the far side of Hurumlandet. He pressed his ID card against the windshield and was quickly waved on by a young officer, who looked a little embarrassed at having stopped him.Munch parked his car on the shoulder a few hundred meters inside the tape and stepped  out into the cold autumn  air. He  lit a cigarette and tightened his duffel coat around him.“Munch?” “Yes?”“I’m Olsen. I’m the head of operations.”Munch  shook  the glove-clad  hand that belonged  to a tall, broad,middle-aged  police officer he did not recognize.“Status update, please?”“The victim was found approximately six hundred meters from theroad in a north-northwesterly  direction,” Olsen said, pointing throughthe dark forest.“Who’s up there now?”“Forensics. Pathology. One of yours . . . Kolstad, is it?”“Kolsø.”Munch  opened the trunk of his Audi, took out his boots, and wasabout to put them on when his cell rang.“Munch.”“It’s Kim. Are you here?”“Yes, I’m down by the road. Where are you?”“I’m up by the tent. Vik has finished and is getting impatient, but I’vetold them not to move her until you get here. I’ll come down to meet you.”“Great. What does it look like?”“We won’t be getting much sleep for a while. This is one sick bastard.”“What do you mean?” Munch said as a sudden uneasy feeling creptover him.   The Owl Always Hunts at Night                                                          25 Holger Munch had nearly thirty years’ experience as a homicide investigator under his belt; by now he’d seen most things. He could usually keep a professional distance from the scenes he encountered, and if the statement had been made by anyone other than Kim Kolsø, he would  not have worried. Had it been Mia, who allowed herself to get emotionally caught up in every single case, or Curry, who was up and down  like a yo-yo  all the time, he would have brushed it off, but Kim? This did not bode well.“Do you want me to tell you, or would you rather see for yourself ?” Kolsø went on.“Give me a brief summary,” Munch  said, sticking a finger into his ear as a patrol car from the crime scene suddenly  turned on its siren and passed by him closely.“Are you still there?” he heard Kolsø say. “Yes, yes, please repeat what you just said.”“Teenage girl, sixteen or seventeen, we think,” Kolsø continued. “Naked. It looks like a kind of . . . how can I put it . . . ritual? Feathers all around her. And candles . . .”Munch  stuck the finger back into his ear when yet another patrol car with flashing blue lights followed its predecessor.“. . . arranged as a kind of symbol . . .”Kolsø’s voice cut out once more. Munch  glared at Olsen, who wastalking on his cell phone while gesturing toward something  that washappening near the crime-scene  tape.“I can’t hear you,” Munch  said.“Some kind of pentagram formation,” Kolsø continued.“What?”“Naked teenage girl. Her body twisted into a strange position. Hereyes are wide open. Feathers all over the place . . .”More static.“I’ve lost you!” Munch shouted, sticking his finger into his ear again.“. . . a flower.”“What?”“Someone stuck a flower in her mouth.”“A what?”   26                                                                             Samuel Bjork “You’re breaking up,” Kim crackled. “I’m coming to get you.” “Okay, I’m by the—” Munch  yelled into his phone, but Kolsø hadalready disconnected.Munch  shook his head and took another deep drag on his cigaretteas Olsen came up to him again.“A couple of nosy reporters got a little too close at first, but I thinkwe’ve finally managed to cordon off the whole area now.”“Good.”  Munch  nodded.  “Have  you  started door-to-door   inqui-ries? The houses up there?”“Yes,” Olsen told him.“Anyone seen anything?”“Not as far as I’ve been told yet.”“Right. Make sure to include the camping site farther up the road.I imagine it’s closed down for the winter, but the trailers are still there.You never know, we might be lucky.”Olsen nodded and disappeared.Munch  put on his boots and found a woolly hat in his coat pocket.He chucked aside the cigarette and lit a fresh one with raw, cold fingersthat were barely able to flick the lighter. Good  God, surely it had beensummer  just the other day? It was only late afternoon, and already itwas as cold and dark as a winter’s night.Kim came toward him, appearing from between the trees, his facein darkness behind a large flashlight.“Are you ready for this?”Ready for this?“Stay close behind me. The path is a trip hazard.”Munch nodded and followed his colleague toward the path that ledup through the woods.

Editorial Reviews

“Expertly paced and thoughtfully plotted, The Owl Always Hunts at Night will leave you shaken to your core.”—Bustle"The tension and stakes increase exponentially over the course of this meticulously plotted tale...Bjork’s character work is excellent and imbues the story with nuance and heft."—Publisher's WeeklyPraise for I'm Traveling Alone“Tense and smartly constructed.” —The Wall Street Journal“Icy landscapes, mysterious clues, a messed-up heroine . . . Nordic noir at its delicious best.” —Sarah Hilary, author of Someone Else’s Skin  “Harrowing and enthralling.” —Publishers Weekly  “A suspenseful, skillfully wrought thriller with the potential for a sequel, this is a thoroughly chilling and an excellent read- alike for Jo Nesbø fans.”  —Booklist, starred review “A breath of fresh air in the crowded Scandinavian crime genre, this suspenseful novel . . . will hook readers early and keep them on the edge of their seats until the final pages. Fans of Jo Nesbø are sure to enjoy the flawed yet likable characters.” —Library Journal, starred review “Samuel Bjørk’s formidable I’m Traveling Alone is despatched with real élan. . . . Mia’s confrontation with both her own demons and a very human one is mesmerising fare.” —Independent (UK)