Big Sister by Gunnar Staalesen – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

When PI Varg Veum is approached to find a missing girl, by a half-sister he barely knew, his investigation takes him deep into the dark web, and some personal history he’d rather forget…

Varg Veum receives a surprise visit in his office. A woman introduces herself as his half-sister, and she has a job for him. Her god-daughter, a 19-year-old trainee nurse from Haugesund, moved from her bedsit in Bergen two weeks ago. Since then no one has heard anything from her. She didn’t leave an address. She doesn’t answer her phone. And the police refuse to take her case seriously.

Veum’s investigation uncovers a series of carefully covered-up crimes and pent-up hatreds, and the trail leads to a gang of extreme bikers on the hunt for a group of people whose dark deeds are hidden by the anonymity of the Internet. And then things get personal…

Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Big Sister reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.
Big Sister is the latest in the long running series to feature Varg Veum and is set in 2003. The case he has to solve is often chilling and a harsh reminder that some of the more murky side to society was an issue then as well. Many of the people he has to see don’t want to talk or are simply unable to. And some of them you really wouldn’t want to meet.
With this novel I felt like I got to know Varg more. There is the case he is trying to solve, which he does in his usual way. Mainly by annoying people and putting himself in danger. But the case has been brought to him by his older half sister who he had never met. With the arrival of Norma, Varg discovers more about himself and his family and whilst apprehensive he feels an instant connection to her. Much of this side of the story really touched me, how common is it to know nothing at all about loved ones?

for an instant a thought struck me: how many siblings are out there who never meet? Who don’t even know about each other…? ‘

I think this is book twenty in the series but with the way it is written a reader can pick any of the books up and follow them easily. This one was the third that I have read and they are all later in the series. I haven’t noticed any spoilers and Varg is the type of character who you feel like you would want to always have around. Quiet, determined, and even though at times he appears to be a loner there are always people there who he can turn to.
I have enjoyed all the books that I have read so far but this is my favourite. This is the one where the poetry comes through. How many authors are there who can make rain sound so enticing?

In Bergen, November is the month of the grey monk. The snow comes later. The sun makes a guest appearance or two. Most days are grey and more often than not it rains. Not summer’s short bursts; not October’s long downpours, which flood the streets and cellars because the relevant authorities haven’t cleared the autumn leaves this year, either; nor spring’s refreshing rain, which washes away the remnants of winter and makes the town clean again. In November, rain is the personification of gloom, as though really it wants to be snow, like a teenage girl with her head in the clouds, dreaming about becoming a prima ballerina one day.

I can’t wait for the next instalment.

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Wolves In The Dark by Gunnar Staalesen – Blog Tour Review.

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About the Book

PI Varg Veum fights for his reputation, his freedom and his life, when child pornography is found on his computer and he is arrested and jailed. Worse still, his memory is a blank…
Reeling from the death of his great love, Karin, Varg Veum’s life has descended into a self-destructive spiral of alcohol, lust, grief and blackouts.
When traces of child pornography are found on his computer, he’s accused of being part of a paedophile ring and thrown into a prison cell. There, he struggles to sift through his past to work out who is responsible for planting the material… and who is seeking the ultimate revenge.
When a chance to escape presents itself, Varg finds himself on the run in his hometown of Bergen. With the clock ticking and the police on his tail, Varg takes on his hardest – and most personal – case yet.

My Review

Wolves in the Dark is the latest in the long running series by Gunnar Staalesen and the publication in English coincides with the 40th anniversary of Varg Veum. Jo Nesbo describes the author as a Norwegian Chandler and I find the description is accurate. However, I feel that Veum is a more damaged character than Marlowe.
Veum is slowly starting to rebuild his life when he is arrested and charged by the police for images found on his computer. When he manages to escape during an interview he is determined to clear his name and work out who from his past could have framed him. Whilst the subject matter of the book is one that had me slightly dubious there was no graphic detail. Most of the novel concerns Veum trying to recall which clients he had let down recently.
I like Veum. This is only the second book that I have read in the series and in the previous book he was just starting to enjoy life again. The events in this novel could very well have been a personal set back but his girlfriend believed in him, which considering what he was accused of was very brave. I liked his ‘relationship’ with Madonna, which helped show the caring side to him. I also liked his determination to work back through his old cases, most of which were blurred by alcohol and grief to clear his name. And at the same time solve the cases that he had failed to do at the time.
Whilst I read a lot of crime fiction this series is unusual with the lead character being in his late fifties rather than a younger man. It suggests that the novels have been written in real time over the forty year period rather than a shorter time frame.
The ending left me eager to know what happens next, I hope it isn’t a long wait. I’m also optimistic that the earlier books will be translated. I would love to get to know more about Veum.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.
You can pre-order the book at Amazon or Waterstones

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Where Roses Never Die by Gunnar Staalesen

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September 1977. Mette Misvær, 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 … Chilling, shocking and full of extraordinary twists and turns, Where Roses Never Die reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writer.

My Review:

Where Roses Never Die is the first book I have read by Gunnar Staaleson. It’s a great introduction to the Private Investigator Varg Veum. He is a troubled man, very much alone for the last three years and spending too much time drowning his sorrows in Aquavit.

When he is asked to try and find out what happened to Mette Misvær twenty-five years earlier he uses the case to try and get back on his feet, both emotionally and financially. The local police tolerate him and there is definitely bad feeling with at least one of them.

The case is all about uncovering secrets, and there are plenty of them. Some are seedy and Varg struggles to hide his disapproval. Some are devastating and cause more suffering when he forces memories to be discussed.

I loved Varg’s character. He was a morally strong, often cynical person who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind even if it meant getting hurt. All sides of society were present, the ones who were down on their luck and wanted to stay invisible and the ones who had no regard for anybody else.  And all felt very believable.

I hope the earlier books will all be translated, at the moment there are three that have been. I would like to read them in order and get to know more about Varg.

With thanks to Karen Sullivan for the copy received. Details of the blog tour are below.

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