A Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose

Gunnar Staalesen, Where Roses Never Die (Der hvor roser aldri dør (2012), translated by Don Bartlett (2015))

So, perhaps for the first time, there’s a spoiler here for those who haven’t read the books in sequence (and I’d already done so by reading the backcover…). Hidden after the picture…

Karin died at the end of the previous book and Veum has hit the akvavit hard. How hard won’t be clear until you’ve read Wolves in the Dark, but there’s probably enough slack to fit in those events in his chronology. The ending (spoiler) of this book seems to suggest that Veum is back on an even keel, but that is less likely by the next novel.

The novel starts with a hot case and cold case – a jewellery heist across the Vågen and the twenty-four-years-and-a-lot-of-days ago disappearance of toddler Mette Misvær who had been playing outside a model housing development. Varg is approached into digging into the latter, before the crime expires under the statute of limitations and in the process discovers that the killed bystander at the diamond heist used to live in the housing development. Whilst the smart money ought to be on Jesper Janeivik, a suspected sex criminal, various of the inhabitants of the housing development seem less than savoury and not at all sweet. Four of the five marriages of the residents have broken down and Joachim, who had been eight-years-old at the time of the disappearance, is a drug addict. Something has clearly gone dreadfully wrong.

The ending hardly offers consolation – the actual crime is shocking and the assertion that life goes on seems a little hard to swallow. Well, obviously it does go on, but not happily.

There’s a scattering of lines about coffee in the novel, but I relocate find my favourite (and I will edit if I do):

  • “The coffee looked black and bitter, like a poisoned chalice from the beyond served by a brimstone preacher on the first Sunday of a fast.”
  • “I tasted the coffee. It was as expected — more bitter than broken New Year resolutions.”

I wonder if the title comes from a hymn (whose authorship is disputed)?:

I am going to a city,
Where the streets with gold are laid,
Where the tree of life is blooming,
And the roses never fade.

Here they bloom but for a season;
Soon their beauty is decayed.
I am going to a city,
Where the roses never fade. …

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