Source: Purchased copy
Publication: 13 June 2019 from Orenda Books. Available Now in e-book
One dark January night a car drives at high speed towards PI Varg Veum, and comes very close to killing him. Veum is certain this is no accident, following so soon after the deaths of two jailed men who were convicted for their participation in a case of child pornography and sexual assault … crimes that Veum himself once stood wrongly accused of committing.
While the guilty men were apparently killed accidentally, Varg suspects that there is something more sinister at play … and that he’s on the death list of someone still at large.
Fearing for his life, Veum begins to investigate the old case, interviewing the victims of abuse and delving deeper into the brutal crimes, with shocking results. The wolves are no longer in the dark … they are at his door. And they want vengeance.
Varg Veum is back and I could not be more delighted. This time he is his own client – business hasn’t been so great recently anyway – and when he is almost run over, it does not take him too long to figure out that this attack was linked to an old case – one he became embroiled in with Wolves in the Dark. You don’t have to have read Wolves in the Dark, the opening of this book will tell you what you need to know. This time, the wolves are at Veum’s door and they’re snapping at his heels.
Veum is a calm and meticulous investigator. He is the kind to put in the footwork, ring the doorbells and not go away until he gets the answers he needs. It’s not always exciting, though goodness knows this book definitely has its exciting moments, but it is fascinating watching him forensically peeling back the layers to get to the truth.
Staalesen’s writing is always beautifully contextualised. Veum may have some despicable crimes to investigate but that doesn’t stop him observing the failures in his society; the criminal justice system that is failing those who need it most – those for whom Veum has the most regard.
Veum’s relationship with Solvi is still on; it does not seem to have substantially progressed although both she and her daughter Helene are clearly very dear to him.
It’s telling that Veum is never too far away from that bottle of aquavit that so nearly led to his downfall. It serves as a reminder that bad things happen to Veum and disaster is only a few steps away most of the time. In the meantime, though we can enjoy Veum’s biting sarcasm as he interviews those with no sense of self-irony at all.
In taking the theme of sexual abuse, Staalesen was never going to produce the warmest of novels, but what I love about this book is the way that he brings in so much that is contemporary – sex trafficking, refugee exploitation, the internet’s ability to globalise child abuse and links it back to Norway’s past. Here we find out about the traumatic details of Televag, of the dreadful loss of life perpetrated at the hands of Terboven and his Nazi soldiers. Staalesen’s sense of place and time is second to none and I learn so much from his books that they are worth buying for that alone.
The battle for good and evil is always at the heart of Staalesen’s stories and Veum is a man to fight the devil wherever he or she is found.
I loved too, Staalesen’s nod to two other distinguished Norwegian literary investigators. These small nuggets for the crime afficionados are fleeting but pleasing.
As Veum’s investigations bring him towards the inevitable conclusion of his interviews, the pacing and the action ramps up exponentially, leading to the destruction of his poor Corolla and the loss of more lives.
The climax is an exciting finale, and with the Police. of course. taking the credit for everything he has uncovered, Staalesen will once again leave Veum at a crossroads. I can’t wait to see which way he decides to travel.
Verdict: Dry, meticulous storytelling interlaced with humour and a biting wit which lays bare some of the societal issues in contemporary Norway. Staalesen is still the master of his game.
One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over twenty-three titles, which have been published in twenty-six countries and sold over five million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim, and a further series is currently being filmed. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour) and the Petrona Award, and been shortlisted for the CWA Dagger, lives in Bergen with his wife.