I enjoy a good ‘ScandiNoir’ and have read and enjoyed a number of Gunnar Staaleson previous novels from his impressive back catalogue therefore I was lucky to get a place on the Orenda blog tour for his latest novel Bitter Flowers.
Bitter Flowers sees main character PI Varg Veum returning to work after a stint in rehab. His first job is offered to him by his physio Lisbeth. It should be a simple case of house sitting but on his arrival at the house he is met with a dead body in the swimming pool, and Lisbeth goes missing. As Varg starts to investigate he finds a tangled web of lies involving shocking environmental crimes, big business and protestors. It’s not long before there are links to the disappearance of a little girl eight years ago who was never found and Varg is thrown headlong into his most challenging case yet.
Bitter Flowers was another great novel from prolific Norwegian author Gunnar Staaleson that I really enjoyed. The story is just as twisty as you would expect from Gunnar with some great characters that you’ll both love and hate.
Although this is part of a series the books most definitely work as stand alone novels and I have not read them in any order (I believe this is the first time that Bitter Flowers has been translated into English) One of the things I like about these is that the life of Varg is not the central element of the book. The focus of the story is the mystery of the dead and missing, with just enough of Varg’s life to make him an interesting character but not take over.
This story was set in the early 80’s which I’ll admit to not really realising at first but as soon as I worked that out things started to click into place. I enjoy stories set in different cultures and the fact this was set over twenty years ago in Norway gave it an added dimension.
I found Bitter Flowers a good read that was a slow burner but one that will draw you in and keep you guessing until the end!
To find out what others thought of Bitter Flowers visit the other stops on the blog tour.
Thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for inviting me onto the blog tour for Big Sister.
Big Sister is set in Norway and features Private Detective Varg Veum. Varg is visited by someone who he thinks is just a new client, until she arrives and introduces herself as his half sister. However she doesn’t just want to meet new family, she actually wants him to try and find her god-daughter Emma. Emma is a student nurse who has gone missing from her student accommodation in Bergen. Varg starts his search but the further he delves into Emma’s background and her troubled home life the more he realises that this is much more than a simple missing persons case as he gets drawn into a world of biker gangs and family secrets.
This is the first of the series that I have read although is the 20th novel to feature the main character. Varg is an interesting person that is the archetypal gruff single private detective on the one hand, but shows a slightly softer intriguing side as well. Seemingly very lonely but through choice rather than circumstance. His life seems to be focused purely on his work with the odd personal relationship an afterthought. Personally I felt it was nice to read about an older character (Varg being in his 60s) which I have to admit I didn’t realise he was to start with.
I enjoyed the story and although it seemed rather slow to start with this was necessary to set the scene and introduce the other characters. The second half does pick up the pace though and there are frequent twists and turns. This is quite a dark feeling novel, with almost a menacing tone to some of the writing. Although I think that it would help understand the main character more if you had read the previous novels, the actual story works well as a stand-alone too. Towards the end this is one of those books where you think it is about to conclude, but then suddenly another twist is thrown in and your thoughts change again.
I enjoy reading Scandinavian noir and this could well be the start of a great new series to try. Once again I think my ‘to be read’ pile is going to get bigger.
Don’t forget to visit the other stops on the blog tour. Big Sister is available now on amazon.