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.

book reviews · Bookish · Uncategorized

Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl (Review)

Happy humpday! Today, I am delighted to be on the blog tour for Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl (Translated by Don Bartlett). It’s a Nordic Noir so I couldn’t say no, could I! I was gifted a copy of the book for review purposes.

About the Book

Suspended from duty, Detective Frølich is working as a private investigator, when his girlfriend’s colleague asks for his help with a female asylum seeker, who the authorities are about to deport. She claims to have a sister in Norway, and fears that returning to her home country will mean instant death.

Frølich quickly discovers the whereabouts of the young woman’s sister, but things become increasingly complex when she denies having a sibling, and Frølich is threatened off the case by the police. As the body count rises, it becomes clear that the answers lie in an old investigation, and the mysterious sister, who is now on the run…

A dark, chilling and up-to-the-minute Nordic Noir thriller, Sister is also a tense and well-plotted murder mystery with a moving tragedy at its heart, cementing Kjell Ola Dahl as one of the greatest crime writers of our generation.

Review

Sister is the 8th book in the Oslo Detective series. This book was my first introduction to the series and reads perfectly well as a stand alone. It’s translated from Norwegian but reads perfectly well, you’d never guess it wasn’t in it’s native language. Very little gives it away as a translated version.

The characters are brilliantly written and it doesn’t seem to matter at all that I don’t have the previous books for extra context to their characters; though I’m sure I’d benefit from reading those too. The protagonist is excellent, with a lot of depth. He’s not just a straight up good guy, he has his demons, his own battles and this makes him a superbly interesting character.

Frank Frølich is working as private investigator. While away doing some work for a retailer who believes a staff member is skimming off the inventory, he decides to pop in to a quiet cafe and strikes up a conversation with the working staff member, Mathilde. They end up taking a liking to each other and begin a relationship. A short while after dating, Mathilde mentions she has a friend who’s seeking a PI. Unsure about how likely he is to be paid by the job, Frank agrees to at least talk to her friend Guri.

Guri explains that she is trying to assist an asylum seeker who came to Norway a few years after her sister. The young woman is now facing deportation and can’t seem to find her sister anywhere. She claims that returning to home country will likely result in her death. Frølich agrees to help and finds the sister pretty quickly, but things aren’t quite as they seem. An author visits him, questioning why Frank is investigating. Shortly after, the author turns up dead.

It doesn’t take long for Frank to find the woman. Supposedly, she doesn’t even have a sister. During the course of his investigation, he’s warned off the case and several people turn up dead and now he is under suspicion too. This only serves to egg him on to discover what is actually going on, stepping in to the dark truths about illegal immigrants in Norway. There are a whole lot of red flags and things that just aren’t quite right.

Incredibly well written, well paced and pretty darn intense, Sister really gets you hooked. Just as soon as you think maybe you know what’s going on.. BAM! Curveball! I hate to use the trope “twists and turns” but it really does. So much comes under examination and if you blink, you’ll miss it. You really have to pay attention to this one. There is a lot going on. I felt like I was part of the investigation and had to figure out this case alongside Frank Frølich. Excellent for those who like to do their own share of the sleuthing while they’re reading!