Source: Review copy
Publication: 30th April 2020
The Oslo Detectives are back in another slice of gripping, dark Nordic Noir, and their new colleague has more at stake than she’s prepared to reveal…
Oslo detective Frølich searches for the mysterious sister of a young female asylum seeker, but when people start to die, everything points to an old case and a series of events that someone will do anything to hide…
Suspended from duty, Detective Frølich is working as a private investigator, when his girlfriend’s colleague asks for his help with a female asylum seeker, who the authorities are about to deport.
She claims to have a sister in Norway, and fears that returning to her home country will mean instant death. Frølich quickly discovers the whereabouts of the young woman s sister, but things become increasingly complex when she denies having a sibling, and Frølich is threatened off the case by the police.
As the body count rises, it becomes clear that the answers lie in an old investigation, and the mysterious sister, who is now on the run…
A dark, chilling and up-to-the-minute Nordic Noir thriller, Sister is also a tense and well-plotted murder mystery with a moving tragedy at its heart, cementing Kjell Ola Dahl as one of the greatest crime writers of our generation.
I’m a big fan of the Oslo Detective series and of Gunnarstranda and Frølich in particular. Frølich, who is at the heart of Sister is suspended from the Police service and working as a Private Investigator when this book opens.
I like Frank Frølich. He has excellent musical taste, mostly rock music from three decades ago, as we find out when he takes a long drive through the Norwegian countryside. He’s never been all that lucky when it comes to women but in Sister he is returning from a relatively routine surveillance assignment when he stops at a café and meets Matilde. She is working there and the pair hit it off very well. Matilde has a friend, Guri who works at a refugee centre and who, Matilde tells him, needs his help. Guri introduces Frølich to Aisha, an Iraqi on the verge of being deported who is desperately trying to find her big sister so that she can establish a place of residency.
Frølich doesn’t have much work on and is keen to please Matilde by helping her friend so he agrees to try and find Aisha’s sister. Straight away things start to happen. He is visited by Fredrik Andersen, a writer working on a documentary about asylum seekers and human trafficking.
Anderson has also written an extensive investigative documentary style report into an infamous ferry disaster where many people died. Anderson believed that despite the police investigations and subsequent public enquiry, the truth never did come out and that someone is covering up the real cause of the disaster. He also claims to know where Aisha’s sister is and demands that Frank tell him who wants to find her. He leaves Frank a substantial down payment, telling him that he has no idea what he is getting into. When Frank has a chance to think things through, he realises he can’t comply and tries to return the money. Shortly afterwards, Anderson is found stabbed to death.
One of the reasons I like Dahl’s work so much is that he has a real passion for confronting injustice and has no patience for corrupt practices. This came out so clearly in The Ice Swimmer. Thus we see that Anderson’s Sea Breeze Ferry disaster has much in common with a real life Oslo ferry disaster (the Scandinavian Star in 1990) which has left a lot of Norwegians, Dahl included, demanding answers to questions that the police, investigators and politicians seem very unwilling to give.
So he takes Frølich, a decent chap with a good moral centre and he gives him two contemporary issues to deal with – one the question of how asylum seekers and refugees are treated in Norway and also the question of what really happened in the ferry disaster.
We see him hide things from Matilde, in a way that inevitably will lead to problems as his job and his personal life come into conflict, but not before they have taken a glorious journey together in Matilde’s pride and joy, a 1966 Ford Thunderbird.
Dahl weaves the two strands of his story together with elegance and finesse and the occasional intervention by Gunnarstranda who is unwilling to be in any way accommodating of Frolich, even when the latter is trying to be helpful, underlines some of the issues with police investigation priorities that underscores Dahl’s case and makes the reader wonder how diligent the police always are in the public interest.
Verdict: Beautifully written, suspenseful with taut plotting and redolent with a sense of anger and a need for answers in a murder mystery that parallels life in its quest for truth and for justice. A must read.
Kjell Ola Dahl, one of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.