Not the Typeface

Kjell Ola Dahl, The Courier (2015, Kureren (translated by Don Bartlett))

I had a moment of panic as I reached the last twenty pages of this book.

There appared to be a ten page leap, when in fact a cluster of pages had come adrift and had been wrongly inserted. After about 300 pages I was definitely worried that I’d miss something vital from the denouement.

So, another Dahl, but not a Gunnarstranda and Frølich novel, rather (I assume) a stand alone. The Second World War — which was mentioned in The Man in the Window and during which Norway was invaded and occupied — is one of the chronological settings of this book, along with 1967 and 2015.

There’s a looking back to a murder in 1942 — Åse has been strangled and prime suspect is her partner and father of her child, Gerhard Falkum. He escapes to Sweden, where Åse’s old friend, the Jewish Ester, has to look after him whilst he waits to go to Britain. Meanwhile, twenty-fives years later, Falkum is back in Olso, having apparently not died in a fire.

This is confusing, because I don’t think we know he’s died in a fire, unless we’ve missed it or read the back cover. He may be back to avenge the death of Åse or to see his daughter — and to be honest this doesn’t quite make sense even by the end, and Ester knows rather more about his war record than others seem to. She also, apparently, is at risk.

Meanwhile, nearly fifty years later, the truth may out. Or not.

Perhaps I’m just being grumpy, but the time shifts aren’t as neatly done as they might be — the pattern seems to be a cliffhanger and cut to another era, but sometimes there are several chapters on the trot in the same period. Despite several viewpoint characters, I felt that too many key scenes are off stage. It is suspenseful, but I’m not keen on the present tense narrative.

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