Wolves in the Dark by Gunnar Staalesen, translated by Don Bartlett


Reeling from the death of his great love, Karin, Varg Veum’s life has descended into a self-destructive spiral of alcohol, lust, grief and blackouts. When traces of child pornography are found on his computer, he’s accused of being part of a paedophile ring and thrown into a prison cell.

There, he struggles to sift through his past to work out who is responsible for planting the material … and who is seeking the ultimate revenge. When a chance to escape presents itself, Varg finds himself on the run in his hometown of Bergen.

With the clock ticking and the police on his tail, Varg takes on his hardest – and most personal – case yet. Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Wolves in the Dark reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.

Very pleased to be on the blog tour for this excellent book. . Varg Veum – such a great name for a detective, is the protagonist of many novels spread over a 40 year period. His full name translates as “Wolf-in-a-holy-place,” old Norse for an outsider, according to an interview I read. Which is just perfect for a Chandler-esque private-eye.

Quite how I managed to get to here without having read any of his other books is beyond me. Because Gunnar Staalesen has written just the sort of flawed anti-hero that I enjoy.

Veum is an alcoholic ex-social worker and the divorced father of one son, living in Bergen. When we meet him in Wolves in the Dark, he is slowly coming out of his aquavit hell. He has a new relationship with Solvi, who has a daughter, Helene, but still deeply mourns Karin,  the love of his life. He has been through hell and back and much of the previous years he doesn’t really remember too clearly, though he knows his behaviour was not too clever.

One morning, early, as he is lying in bed, his doorbell rings insistently. The police have arrived with a search warrant, impound his computer and take him to the police station to question him over allegations of the possession and distribution of child pornography. Veum is stunned, not least because, although he knows how to use his computer, he is hardly IT literate, and uses it only for work purposes and e-mails. So he knows it can’t be true, but all the evidence points to the contrary.

So Veum has to try and piece together, using his flawed and fragmented memory, who from his previous cases could have wanted to inflict such a cruel and damning punishment on him.

What this throws up is by no means a tale of unblemished character. Veum has crossed many people in his time as a private detective and in scrolling back through his cases, there are some memory triggers that send him to pursue leads which will bring him into contact with some of Norway’s most unsavoury characters.

The dialogue is dry and sparing and Staalesen knows just how to tell a story. As Veum slowly puts together the sequence of events which led him to be arrested, he is both stunned and horrified by what he learns.

Wolves in the Dark is indeed a dark and repugnant tale of child pornography, criminal enterprise, murder and betrayal and shines a light on the behaviour of some of those who, having been put in charge of the care of children, proceed to abuse and betray that sacred trust.

It is a moral tale, dryly told and pulls no punches in its approach. It is a searing indictment of and strong social commentary on everything we understand today about this kind of crime. It carries a strong and bitter relevance for the reader.

Outstandingly told, and with Veum’s real human frailty exposed, Staalesen has created a complex and riveting tale with real power and authority which deserves to be read.

Shout out, too, for Don Bartlett’s excellent translation which never gets in the way of the story.

Wolves in the Dark is published by Orenda Books on 15th June 2017

You can buy it here:




See other reviews, extracts and interviews with the author here :




Published by marypicken

Passionate book reader. Love all kind of books from 19th century novels to crime thrillers. My blog is predominantly crime, psychological thrillers and police procedurals with a good helping of literary fiction thrown in.

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