Who Let the Dogs Out?

Wolves at the Door (Utenfor er Hundene (2018), translated by Don Bartlett, (2019))

wolves at the doorAnd so, rather more rapidly than expected, I’ve caught up – at least until I can get hold of Fallen Angel. If I want any more Varg Veum, I either need to read in Norwegian or watch the television movies.


Having read Yours Until Death I was wary about continuing – partly because of the sexism of the main characters and partly because one volume seemed so expensive.

I found a cheaper copy.

So, Wolves at the Door – a Varg joke, echoing wolf in the sanctuary, aka pariah, outlaw – but obviously it is Outside are the Dogs or The Dogs are Outside.

Back in Wolves in the Dark, Veum was arrested for having child pornography on his hard drive and investigated various people who might have a grievance against him. One of the guilty parties was last seen in a fjord, presumed drowned. Now two of the other three people charged with possessing pornography have died and, after an attempt is made to run Varg down, he suspects someone is delivering vigilante justice. The police, in the shape of Jakob E. Hamre, are sceptical – and like another recurring cop character in the series, he’d rather not see Veum or another corpse before he retires.

So, Veum starts asking questions, questioning the relatives of Mikael Midtbø – who fell from a tower block – and Per Haugen – who had a heart attack and drowned – and no one seems sad to see the back of them. He uncovers fractured families, including a one-time model turned addict, and comes back to face a heavy seen in at least one earlier novel who is far from happy to be reunited. And Karl Slåtthaug, the fourth person charged, has gone missing.

What links at least two of the three is a mysterious pastor, who seems to have talked to them – perhaps eliciting confessions (although this is mot part of Lutheran practice), perhaps enacting God’s vengeance.

Never trust the religious. At least in these novels.

And Veum is not the only target: his girlfriend Sølvi and her daughter Helene are at risk.

Veum has to knock on a lot of doors – which still open the wrong way – and leave a lot of phone messages, and as always the plot is what satisfies. I like Veum, but he’s still no Rankin nor Hole, and the Chandler notes have been reduced. Or the translation is less arch?

The fancying of witnesses and suspects (sometimes the same person) has almost disappeared – but then Veum is in his sixties. There’s a substitute family developing, but Staalesen wants to pull the rug again. The hints at his real father are finally followed up on, the envelope of DNA results being opened at last. He still has an ex-wife, but she is no longer mentioned, and his son, daughter-in-law and grandson are off stage. Veum is outside the law.

Whilst in previous novels there have been characters brought back, here it seems more common (or the recurrences have been of those from as yet untranslated book?) – for example, he finds himself at the flats where Johnny Boy lived in The Consorts of Death.

I do wonder, given Veum’s age and an ultimatum issued in this book, if we are gearing up for the end.

But we know Rebus never really retired.

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