Reviews > Published on November 16th, 2015

Bookshots: 'The Mystery of the Lone Wolf Killer' by Unni Turrettini

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


The Mystery of the Lone Wolf Killer

Who wrote it?

Turrettini’s eagerness to push her agenda leads her to nothing more substantial than victim blaming Norway for the actions of one man.

Unni Turrettini, originally from Norway and now a US trained lawyer. More info at her website

Plot in a Box:

On 22 July 2011, Anders Breivik set off a bomb in the centre of Oslo which killed 8 people. He then drove to Utøya island and shot a further 69 people, mostly teenagers participating in a political summer camp. Lone Wolf Killer attempts to work out what motivated Breivik to commit his crimes.

Invent a new title for this book:

I Don’t Like Norway Very Much and Neither Should You

Read this if you like:

Half-baked theories about major crimes.

Meet the book’s lead:

Anders Breivik, self-appointed saviour of Norway from the twin scourges of political correctness and Islamification.

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:

Few actors could capture Breivik’s overweening self-importance and arrogance. I would not wish the part on anyone.

Setting: would you want to live there?

I do live there. Utøya is a two hour drive from Murphy Towers.

What was your favorite sentence?

I tried in vain to find one.

The Verdict:

You know, I really wanted to read this book. As someone who doesn’t live in Norway because I happened to be born here, or because I happen to have relatives here, but chose to live in this country out of a sheer love for its beauty, peacefulness and enlightened attitude to social issues, I badly wanted to understand why Anders Breivik, who had the benefit of everything Norway has to offer, decided to demonstrate his love for his country by coolly shooting, one by one, a bunch of terrified, weeping teenagers.

I really wanted to understand that, and as I sit here writing this in the aftermath of another day of terror, this time in Paris, I want to understand it even more. What motivates someone to pick up a gun and turn it on unarmed strangers? How can they possibly justify such an act? What can we learn from these tragedies that might help us take action to stop it happening again?

If you too want the answers to questions like this, you won’t find them in The Mystery of the Lone Wolf Killer. Turrettini, whose qualifications for writing about this terrible event seem to consist of the fact that she grew up in Drammen, a town on the coast of Norway famous for its cough sweets, can’t even begin to make a dent on a subject of this size and gravity. For that you’d need an academic background in criminology, possibly also in sociology or social anthropology and wideranging experience in the process of radicalization and religious fundamentalism. From what she’s produced in Lone Wolf Killer, I’m pretty sure Turrettini has none of these, beyond an ability to read books written by other people, and let’s be honest, most of us are able to do that.

What Turrettini does bring to the table is a dislike for Norwegian culture, specifically her belief that said culture discourages exceptionalism. In Norway, kids are taught to all be the same, she says. Individual aspiration is stifled by the dead hand of social democracy and those who, like Breivik, would like to express views contrary to the politically correct dogma of the regime, are prevented from doing so by the State’s tight control over freedom of expression. This, according to Turrettini, is what turned Breivik into a killer. He wasn’t allowed to be different enough.

What a load of bollocks. Norway so believes in discouraging excellence that it runs a system of individual schools, dedicated to encouraging young sportspeople to focus on and hone their talents. Yes, in Norway you can specialize in skiing, or horseriding, or volleyball, or football from the age of 16 and let me assure you that no one at Norwegian football school is told not to kick the ball too hard in case they stand out from the crowd. And as for freedom of expression, in 2015 Norway sent a clear message to the US that it needs to come down much harder on whistleblowers, by awarding its Bjørnson prize for literary free speech (worth about £10,000) to Edward Snowden.

It doesn’t help Turrettini that to pad out her argument, she delves into the history of two other mass murderers in a search for common themes. Her choice of Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh as illustrative examples, both of whom were born and raised in that hotbed of individualism, America, does nothing to support her idea that Scandinavian socialist ideals were responsible for creating a monster.

I could go on, but I won’t. Listing the rest of this book’s weaknesses is too dispiriting. We desperately need to understand what motivates the Breiviks of this world, as recent events so amply demonstrate. But Turrettini’s eagerness to push her agenda leads her to nothing more substantial than victim blaming Norway for the actions of one man. And sadly, that means the mystery behind his actions remains unsolved.

About the author

Cath Murphy is Review Editor at and cohost of the Unprintable podcast. Together with the fabulous Eve Harvey she also talks about slightly naughty stuff at the Domestic Hell blog and podcast.

Three words to describe Cath: mature, irresponsible, contradictory, unreliable...oh...that's four.

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