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…
After a diversion into the historical based thriller The Courier (which I would highly recommend) Kjell Ola Dahl has reverted back to his Oslo Detective series with Sister being the eighth outing. As usual Frank Frølich is in the midst of a couple of tricky cases, and as he discovers connections between the two, his innate powers of detection are put under pressure…
By isolating Frølich from his previous role as police detective, Dahl has opened up a world of possibilities for this character as a private investigator, whilst retaining his connections to his former career. Hence, regular readers of the series will see Frølich retain a relationship with a familiar character from the previous books, yet have the scope to embark on his own probing investigation unfettered by his former restraints as a police officer. As I was reading, I felt that we could be looking at a younger Varg Veum, the central character of Gunnar Staalessen’s excellent series, and a private investigator of some repute. Although Frølich does not have exactly the same characteristics or highly developed cynicism of Veum, the indications are good that this new career will be a good fit for him as the series progresses, and it will be interesting to see into which direction Dahl will lead him. He is a persistent and determined investigator, and as his two initially unconnected investigations begin to meld together, he has numerous red herrings and blind alleys to navigate. One of these cases in particular, highlights Frølich‘s tenacity as an investigator, and also his own personal moral code to challenge authority, and to achieve some kind of justice for the victim, despite, at times, intense personal danger to himself.
As Frølich gradually unpicks the underlying strands of each case, what Dahl constructs is a story that balances equally a cold case of some years previously, a maritime accident and a very pertinent and contemporary case centred on immigration. Dahl is very adroit at taking the reader into the finer detail of a case, in particular the historical case of a devastating fire on board a ship, and he also constructs the narrative so there is a salient repetition of certain information, to keep us in the loop with Frølich‘s discoveries, and to map out the conspiracy theory in a clear and relevant manner. Although I was less engaged with this strand of the story, there were certain elements of it that piqued my interest as the scope of the conspiracy was gradually revealed. I did, however, enjoy the more contemporary element of the book, focussing on the murder of a immigration worker, and how this impacts on her associates, on Frølich and also on a new personal relationship he has embarked on. By its very nature this was going to be a more emotive case for Frølich, and Dahl neatly arouses the readers’ sympathies for both the victim and others, as elements of the past give rise to retribution and revenge.
Once again, translated beautifully by Don Bartlett, Dahl has constructed a multi-layered and thoroughly researched crime thriller where the impact of past and present interweave and impact on each other. The book is peppered with some nice little elements of humour, and I am always impressed by Dahl’s aptitude for constructing such a visual depiction of his characters from relatively few details of their physical features, like mini caricatures. As I said previously, in the long term, it will be interesting how Frølich overcomes the personal disappointments that this case brings to him, and how his career as a private investigator will play out after his ignominious fall from grace as a police officer. It all bodes well for a good solid change of direction in the Oslo Detective series. Recommended.
(With thanks to Orenda Books for the ARC)