Crime and Titillation

Kjell Ola Dahl, Lethal Investments (Dødens investeringer (1993), translated by Don Bartlett, 2011)

Lethal Investments coverJo Nesbø has been lucky – whilst they didn’t start with the first Harry Hole novel, all have been translated. Gunnar Staalersen and Jørn Lier Horst’s series have large gaps. And here Lethal Investments has made it into English, but only after a few other novels – Seksognitti (1994), Miniatyren (1996) and Siste skygge av tvil (1998) have yet to follow. At this point he was still K.O. Dahl – perhaps we would have been scared by … Kiel …? Shell…?

So, what would probably be better as The Investments of Death or Death’s Investments doesn’t seem concerned to introduce us to Gunnarstranda and Frølich, his Oslo detectives, and I struggle really to get a strong sense of them. Gunnarstranda, the superior officer, is widowed, bald and fat – in fact there are a lot of fat characters in the novels – and smokes and drinks coffee, likes plants. Frølich, the younger man, has a girlfriend in a commune, likes fly fishing, drinking, sees people as fish.

Reidun Rosendal has spent the night in her apartment with a young man, Sigurd Klavestad, and her neighbours find her brutally murdered some time later. Suspicion is likely to fall upon that young man, but the neighbours seem jumpy and there’s also a witness – Arvid Johansen, a peeping tom, with a pair of binoculars and a pile of porn. Lest it become too easy, her colleagues at the dubious-looking Software Partners seem to have affairs and drinking problems that shifts suspicion towards the company. Software Partners are looking for big investments, but, they might, you know, be, yes, Lethal ones.

There’s a grubbiness to the novel – not just the porn (and Johansen has videos, too), but an obsession with breasts.

“I just sat here enjoying myself while she lay on her back waggling her tits”

His eyes above the beard were fixed on the girl’s breasts.

“Well, on this this woman’s tits in the magazine there was a line of pools numbers.”

The first of these is the peeping tom, the second is Frølich (possibly from Gunnarstranda’s perspective) and the third is Gunnarstranda. I wonder if this is going to become a problem – Morse ogling his interviewees was one reason I stopped reading them and those are set in the 1970s.

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