#BlogTour- Kjell Ola Dahl- Little Drummer- (tr. Don Bartlett) @ko_dahl @orendabooks

When a woman is found dead in her car in a Norwegian parking garage, everyone suspects an overdose … until a forensics report indicates that she was murdered. Oslo Detectives Frølich and Gunnarstranda discover that the victim’s Kenyan scientist boyfriend has disappeared, and their investigations soon lead them into the shady world of international pharmaceutical deals. While Gunnarstranda closes in on the killers in Norway, Frølich and Lise, his new journalist ally, travel to Africa, where they make a series of shocking discoveries about exploitation and corruption in the distribution of foreign aid and essential HIV medications. When tragedy unexpectedly strikes, all three investigators face incalculable danger, spanning two continents. And not everyone will make it out alive…

The next instalment of the Gunnerstranda/Frølich series following the brilliant Faithless, The Ice Swimmer and Sister, and once again a sterling example of why Scandinavian crime fiction is so far in its reach, and so brilliant in its execution…

Reminding me strongly of the late, great Henning Mankell’s forays into Africa with his fiction, Kjell Ola Dahl constructs a story that beautifully balances the familiar tropes of not only the genre as a whole and this series in particular, but also navigates into corruption and science in an intensely compelling and knowledgeable way. As the story migrates from Norway to Africa, focussing on the bribery and shady deals of the international pharmaceutical world, not only did I learn a significant amount of how these tendrils of connection between Europe and Africa stretch, but how easily people abuse and profit from a trade that should aid developing countries with the HIV explosion, but in reality leads to the help being interrupted and manipulated for gain. With the story bridging the gap between two murder investigations in Norway, and the strange disappearance of a young, committed Kenyan scientist, Dahl seamlessly ties the plots together, plunging detective Frank Frølich into the role of the blundering European abroad, and leaving detective Gunnerstranda holding the fort in Norway as the connections between the cases slowly begin to reveal themselves.

Throughout this series and Dahl’s standalone books, I am always mightily impressed by the way he constructs his characters and the little foibles that illuminate their personalities. Gunnerstranda is an obstinate and headstrong man, grappling with the fact that his favourite addiction is proving detrimental to his health, and behaving like a bear with a sore head as a consequence. Frølich is as steadfast and resolute as usual but once again, finding himself succumbing to matters of the heart, and a seemingly very unsuitable entanglement. Although they both easily inhabit their professional roles as dedicated and tenacious investigators, these little kinks in their characters allow Dahl to emphasise the men behind the badges, and also allows for moments of his wry and dark humour to break the surface throughout.

This book can only further cement Dahl’s position on the Norwegian crime fiction scene, echoing the strong characterisation and wit of compatriot Gunnar Staalesen, and the tension and action of Jo Nesbo, but with his own unique style and writing flair. I was once again enraptured by this taut, eye-opening and compelling read, for not only the reasons I have outlined, but also by his rendition of the particular atmosphere and feel of the African location too.  I would like to extend a special note of praise to translator Don Bartlett for not only his use of the word ‘noggin’, but also for his utterly perfect and lively translation of Little Drummer– one of the finest translators on the crime fiction scene. A highly recommended read all round.

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One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published thirteen 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.

Don Bartlett completed an MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in 2000 and has since worked with a wide variety of Danish and Norwegian authors, including Jo Nesbø and Gunnar Staalesen’s Varg Veum series: We Shall Inherit the WindWolves in the Dark and the Petrona award-winning Where Roses Never Die. He also translated Faithless, the previous book in Kjell Ola Dahl’s Oslo Detective series for Orenda Books. He lives with his family in a village in Norfolk.

(With thanks to Orenda Books for the ARC)

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