book reviews · Bookish

Fallen Angels by Gunnar Staalesen (Review)

Phew, we’re almost at the end of the week. Back in to lockdown. It’s pretty stressful. A good excuse to pick up some new books! So how about Fallen Angels by Gunnar Staalesen (Translated by Don Bartlett). I’m really pleased to be on the Orenda tour for this latest piece of translated Nordic fiction. Did you know, there is even a statue of Varg Veum, the protaganist in Bergen, Norway where the books are set? Please be sure to check out the other stops on the tour and if it sounds like the kind of book you’ll enjoy, maybe you’d like to join for the virtual book launch! Details below. There’s also a way to get £3 off a signed copy at the end of the post. 😀

Fallen Angels (or Falne Engler in Norwegian) is the latest Nordic Noir translated work brought to us by the amazing Orenda Books and is the 18th installment overall in the Varg Veum series. It reads perfectly fine as a standalone which is good as not all of his prior works are available in English as far as I’m aware. One day I’ll read them in Norwegian. I was on the tour for the previous book Orenda brought to our lands and that combined with friends from Norway pushed me to learn the language! But anyway, let me tell you more about this book itself.

The death of a former classmate brings Varg together with his old friends. Friends may be a bit too strong of a word for some of them. One of these gents married Varg’s first love. This situation took Varg on a trip down memory lane, exploring his own past while feeling his age in the present. There is a lot of exploration and insight to Varg as a person and as a result, this book is quite the slow burn but it’s important that this is done for the plot to have the desired effect, in my opinion. I feel I have to note this as while I personally don’t mind it, I know some do and prefer a quicker build of the tensions and a bigger sense of urgency.

The action isn’t strictly said, but it’s obvious that is has a significant effect on Varg and it doesn’t feel like the focus of the book. It’s very much a foray in to the past with a murder thrown in for good measure. However, it lays a lot out, and while this book is in the 80’s, some of it is still relevant today. It feels very real and authentic and leaves a bad taste in the mouth with its believability. The characters are not a likeable bunch and their actions are oftentimes… well, unsavoury, but they’re very human and Staalesen doesn’t try to polish them and make them look like they’re better people than they are. I really enjoy that fact and find it only makes the tale more compelling. Are these people really who they seem? It’s quite an insight in to how dark human behaviours can be and left me feeling cautious and uneasy as I progressed through until I reached the conclusion alongside Varg (vague because.. spoilers!)

Fallen Angels is a well written, compelling read, and Don Bartlett did an excellent job with the translation of this work and keeping its heart. I feel like this book adds a lot to Varg’s character and while differently paced to the other works of Staalesen’s that I’ve read, it adds a lot of flavour – I half wish I had gotten to read it before his other works but then I wonder if I’d have picked up more if this was my first foray. I’m not sure! What I am sure of is that I enjoyed this read and was so excited to see another Gunnar Staalesen title brought to our shores!

About the Book

Exploring his own dark memories may be the only way to find a killer…

When Bergen PI Varg Veum finds himself at the funeral of a former classmate on a sleet-grey December afternoon, he’s unexpectedly reunited with his old friend Jakob – guitarist of the once-famous 1960s rock band The Harpers – and his estranged wife, Rebecca, Veum’s first love.

Their rekindled friendship is thrown into jeopardy by the discovery of a horrific murder, and Veum is forced to dig deep into his own adolescence and his darkest memories, to find a motive … and a killer.

Tense, vivid and deeply unsettling, Fallen Angels is the spellbinding, award-winning thriller that secured Gunnar Staalesen’s reputation as one of the world’s foremost crime writers.