Published on 15 March 2015 by Orenda Books and available here
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 writers.
Many thanks to Karen Sullivan for my review copy and for introducing me to the lovely Varg Veum, last year.
***Where Roses Never Die Review***
Last year, I met Varg Veum. He was in the wonderful Nordic We Shall Inherit the Wind. Time has passed. Varg is back in When Roses Never Die. It is like the return of an old friend.
The Varg Veum series is written by Gunnar Staalesen, translated into English by Don Bartlett.
Varg Veum, the self titled lone wolf, is a bit of a mess. We last saw him in 1999, when his long term girlfriend was dying. It is now three years later. Varg is in need of a kick up the backside. He is a barely functioning alcoholic, with a broken heart and an inability to move on. Varg is finally given a case and a chance to rebuild his life. He is a Private Investigator, after all. He is asked to look into the disappearance of a little girl. Three year old Mette, vanished in 1977 and no trace of her was ever seen.
Gunnar Staaleson sends us into the lives of a smallish community. They live in a sort of shared housing co-op, with all of the houses facing each other. Very 1970s hippy! Their lives are very intertwined, as they socialise together. There are many secrets and lies. They were ALL not honest with the police back in the 1970s. It is no surprise, that the police got no where with the case. A missing child, a potential murder case, is the stuff of nightmares. Staaleson never lets us forget the effect on the mother, the way time has frozen for her. At the beginning of the novel, pessimism reigns. No one thinks Varg can get to the truth. We get a strong sense of the brutal and long term psychological impact of events, including the loss of the girl.
Varg Veum starts by questioning and unpicking their words, together with getting inside information from the police working the case back in the day. He is determined to find any connections to the missing child. We slowly see him drawing conclusions and making sense of various odd behaviours. He is one clever, sweetly old fashioned chap!
This is the sort of crime novel to go for, if you like brooding rough round the edges heroes. The mystery itself takes us down a few misdirected paths, til eventually we see the shocking and sad hidden truth. Staalesen is critiquing the selfish human condition and how it brings about its own downfall. This is a fabulous and very accessible Nordic thriller, with a dark satisfying side.
Roses Never Die by Gunnar Staalesen (translated by Don Bartlett) is published in the UK by Orenda Books, from 15th March 2016.
It is available from amazon.co.uk as well as all good bookshops.