Gunnar Staalesen is, in my humble opinion, one of the finest Scandinavian crime fiction writers of the modern age, so it’s an absolute pleasure to be involved in this blog tour, marking the release of the latest in his Varg Veum series, Where Roses Never Die…
September 1977. Mette Misvaer, a three-year-old girl disappears without trace from the sandpit outside her home. Her tiny, close middle-class community in the tranquil suburb of Nordas is devastated, but their enquiries and the police produce nothing. Curtains twitch, suspicions are raised, but Mette is never found. Almost 25 years later, as the expiry date for the statute of limitations draws near, Mette’s mother approaches PI Varg Veum, in a last, desperate attempt to find out what happened to her daughter. As Veum starts to dig, he uncovers an intricate web of secrets, lies and shocking events that have been methodically concealed. When another brutal incident takes place, a pattern begins to emerge…
Averse as I am to gushing, with some authors it’s difficult to remain completely objective when you have genuinely loved every single book that they have ever produced. Such is my problem- but a nice problem- with the venerable Mr Staalesen, and Where Roses Never Die, which merely compounds my adoration of this series to date.
As there is a deliciously dark twist in this book, I will not tarry long on the plot, but needless to say Staalesen once again employs his tactic of making the reader believe that what they are witnessing is a fairly simple investigation, in this case possible child abduction/murder and a jewellery store robbery. But nothing so straightforward my friends. Staalesen has a wonderful way of calmly exposing a very nasty underbelly to Veum’s investigation that will both unsettle and disturb you, all through a measured unfolding of Veum’s probing discoveries, and the exposure of his protagonist’s true nature and motivations. As you think that the investigation is going steadily in one direction, a follow up interview or a loose casual remark uncovers another dark thread for Veum to follow, and the innocent are not always as innocent as we believe. Staalesen’s plotting is consistently faultless and this book proves no exception. Question everything you think you know, and don’t be fooled, there are some rum characters in this one.
Staalesen is incredibly good at exposing the kinks in the psychological make-up and behaviour throughout his characterisation, from his dogged and haunted PI Veum , through the layers of deceit and misdirection that the surrounding cast of characters exhibit as he searches for truth and resolution. Veum is such a non-linear, unpredictable character and cleverly, the familiarity we think we have with him as readers is effectively warped in each book, as Staalesen seems to re-assess and redraw him slightly in each investigation, exposing different facets of the man both personally and professionally. The natural cynical humour, and determination to unsettle and irritate some of those he encounters remains a constant though, and I love the way that Staalesen extends this feature of Veum’s character to poke affectionate fun at the locale of Bergen and its inhabitants too. On a more serious note though, it is good to see Veum starting to recover from a significant loss in his life, and making a few tentative steps back to the realm of personal relationships, leaving the door open a gap for this emotional recovery to continue in the next book.
Once again, Staalesen has produced another impeccable slice of Nordic noir, that places him at the forefront of the Scandinavian crime writing community. With immaculate and controlled plotting, which throws up a number of dark surprises along the way to nicely unsettle the reader, and the engaging figure of Varg Veum at its centre, Where Roses Never Die is a more than satisfying addition to this excellent series. Highly recommended.
(With thanks to Orenda Books for the ARC)
Catch up with or continue to follow the blog tour at these excellent sites