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

Wolves at the Door by Gunnar Staalesen (Review)

Hello! Today I am on the blog tour for Wolves at the Door by Gunnar Staalesen and I am bringing you a review! This book is out now and available in Paperback, Kindle and Audiobook editions. I received a copy of this book for free as part of the tour.

Varg Veum is a private detective, operating out of Bergen, Norway. Previously accused of pedophilia, after images were planted on his computer, Varg has been trying to pick up the pieces after he was proven innocent, but his name still tainted.

One day, someone attempts to run Varg down. Around the same time, he has discovered that two people in the aforementioned pedophile case had died, but he senses something is amiss. Nobody has commissioned him to do so, but he decides to investigate their deaths and discovers the dark truth about the people involved in the case.

The books main theme is a case about the deaths of two pedophiles and mentions child abuse including that which occurs in a family setting. Some readers may find this triggering.

The book is translated from Norweigan, but it is well written and immersive. I found it to be suspenseful and really easy to settle in to and I guess that’s thanks to the author also being from Bergen. The nouns threw me off because I spent a while contemplating how they’d be pronounced, but that was all the more interesting to me and I was glad they didn’t anglicize the names. As an English reader, I really enjoyed the foreign setting.

The ending was punchy, hard hitting and satisfying and I was really pleased with the outcome and how the author wrapped the book up. It’s part of a series, but it read just fine as a standalone and I don’t feel overly baited to the next installment – although, I’d be interested to reading it, for sure!

About the Book

One dark January night a car drives at high speed towards PI Varg Veum, and comes very close to killing him. Veum is certain this is no accident, following so soon after the deaths of two jailed men who were convicted for their participation in a case of child pornography and sexual assault … crimes that Veum himself once stood wrongly accused of committing.

While the guilty men were apparently killed accidentally, Varg suspects that there is something more sinister at play … and that he’s on the death list of someone still at large.

Fearing for his life, Veum begins to investigate the old case, interviewing the victims of abuse and delving deeper into the brutal crimes, with shocking results. The wolves are no longer in the dark … they are at his door. And they want vengeance.

About the Author

One of the fathers of Nordic Noir, Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over twenty titles, which have been published in twenty-four countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Espen Seim. Staalesen has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour) and Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award for crime fiction. He lives with his wife in Bergen.