In the Dark

Gunnar Staalesen, At Night All Wolves Are Grey (I Mørket er Alle Ulver Grå (1983), translated by David McDuff, 1985)

One always forgets a wolf along the way”

greySometimes there’s an itch, and obviously whilst I have books, I really ought to be reading about Bergen’s most famous private eye. Even if he has a wandering eye. And digging around t’Interwebs, I found all but one of the translated titles on a single non-BigSouthAmericanRiver. Mind you, I went back there for Consorts of Death.

And when the pile arrived, I discovered two things. Continue reading →

It’s a Murder of Crows, or, Corvid Reading

Agnes Ravatn, The Bird Tribunal (Fugletribunalet, 2013, translated by Rosie Hedger, 2016)

RavatnIt’s a little unfair, but this kind of (usually) female gothic is haunted – Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca springs to mind, as does (to a lesser extent) Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, as well as Hitchcock’s Rebecca and The Birds. Oh, and Bluebeard.

This wasn’t the first book I’d bought in a real shop since the lockdown, but it was my first expotition out of the postcodes and a visit to the Oxford Street Bookshop. It leapt out at me from the crime and thriller section, and it was only after I left the shop that it was a Book at Bedtime serial, which I’d only caught sections of. And for some reason had thought of Frankenstein.

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From Dusk til Dawn

Jørn Lier Horst, When It Grows Dark (2016, Når Det Mørkner, translated by Anne Bruce, 2016)

When It Grows DarkSo, I wonder if Lier Horst has painted himself into a corner – it seems as if he’s producing a Wisting novel every year and – spoiler – Wisting’s daughter Line has had a daughter at the end of Ordeal. The pattern of Wisting’s investigation intersecting with Line’s journalism (but it takes most of the novel for a police officer and a journalist to spot this) is likely disrupted by baby Ingrid being in a sling. Indeed, I think Line only has a cameo in this volume, which I suspect we’d call a novelette in sf terms.

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The Real Ordeal

Jørn Lier Horst, Ordeal (2015, Blindgang, translated by Anne Bruce, 2016)
Ordeal“As a criminal investigator, I have never believed in coincidence. There are always explanations. Patterns, threads and logical connections. […] But I must admit that there is a place for coincidences in life, outwith the rules laid down by the laws of nature and described by the province of science.”

Coincidence and synchronicity, especially the former, reverberate through the Wisting series. William Wisting is investigating a case that impinges on an old case or is struggling after a case has gone cold and his daughter, Line Wisting is investigating a death or something criminally related. It takes most of the book for a detective and a journalist to work it out, even if it is blindingly obvious to we, the oh so wise reader. Continue reading →

Canes Venatici

Jørn Lier Horst, The Hunting Dogs (2012, Jakthundene, translated Anne Bruce, 2014)

HuntingSo, this isn’t quite where I came in — it’s episodes 6-10 of Wisting, when the titular detective is riding high from his triumph of solving the serial killer case of Caveman. Appearing on Jens Christian Nørve’s Åsted Norge programme, his celebration is turned to despair when a lawyer Henden (Fridtjov Såheim) on the show accuses the police of a miscarriage of justice over his client Vidar Haglund (Fridtjov Såheim)’s alleged murder of Cecelia Linde. Wisting is suspended from duties and faces prison time — but takes the files home so he find out who planted the evidence and find out if Haglund was guilty. This becomes urgent, as another teen, Linnea Kaupang (Thea Sofie Loch Næss), has now gone missing.

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Over Wintering

Jørn Lier Horst, Closed for Winter (2011, Vinterstengt, translated by Anne Bruce, 2013)

ClosedNorwegians seem to have summer homes. Or perhaps it’s just the middle class ones. They seem to be in the middle of nowhere and are perhaps a symbol of their relationship with isolation. In this case, we have Ove Bakkerud, seeking out isolation from a break up, who finds that his hytte has been broken into in his absence. And it gets worse: there is a murder victim at a nearby cabin, a cabin owned by TV personality Thomas Rønningen. Continue reading →

My Left Foot

Jørn Lier Horst, Dregs (2010, Bunnfall, translated by Anne Bruce, 2011)

DregsThere’s a kind of detective work in coming to this, the fifth in the Wisting novels, after the television adaptation of books nine and eight of the sequence.

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Ingen Flyr På Ham

Hans Olav Lahlum, Menneskefluene (Human Flies (2010))

Norway was neutral during the Second World War, but was invaded by Germany on 9 April 1940 and occupied by the Wehrmach until 8 May 1945. About a third of the Jewish population was deported to the camps in German, whilst others fled into exile. Some Norwegians signed up to fight for the Nazis — mostly on the Eastern front — but there was also a resistance movement. This left a bitter legacy for Norway, some of which formed back stories for the Harry Hole novels of Jo Nesbø, all of which I have now read.

So, whilst there are non-series novels to be read, I found a copy of Lahlum’s Human Flies, a locked-room mystery set in 1968. Harald Olesen, a hero of the resistance, is found shot dead in his flat in an apartment building, but no one has seen anybody leave his front door. It is up to Detective Inspector Kolbjørn Kristiansen to investigate and the building is full of secrets — a former Nazi, an American ambassadorial official, people orphaned by the war, those having affairs… K2 (as the detective is known) is aided in this investigation by Patricia, a beautiful and intelligent woman confined to a wheelchair.

Lahlum is a historian by training and it turns out a relative (a great great aunt?) was Dagmar Lahlum, an Oslo member of the Norwegian resistance recruited by Eddie Chapman to work for MI5 — his exploits were recounted in several biographies, including Nicholas Booth’s Zigzag – The Incredible Wartime Exploits of Double Agent Eddie Chapman (2007) and Ben Macintyre’s Agent Zigzag: The True Wartime Story of Eddie Chapman, Lover, Betrayer, Hero, Spy (2007). This clearly had an impact on the novel — of the relationship forged in the war and lost in peace time.

And yet I don’t think I can recommend this. I’ve not read enough Agatha Christie to make the comparison — but there’s a series of one-to-one interviews, a couple of points where the suspects are gathered together (“I suppose you are wondering why I gathered you all here together…”)… It, frankly, drags. The first person narration doesn’t help and the nods to historic events seem perfunctory. Perhaps in 1968 a policeman could work alone and share information with a civilian without trouble, but it’s a novel that feels set in the 1930s rather than the 1960s.