Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Cold Hearts - Gunnar Staalesen

'On the exterior, everything looked nice and proper, but who had any idea what corruption was hidden - not only behind these walls but any such walls anywhere in the world?'

Cold Hearts is an excellent crime read featuring Norwegian private investigator Varg Veum looking into the case of a missing woman in Bergen, and uncovering crimes as well as a dark history of sadness and a web of lies as his search develops. 

I liked the opening chapter which gave a little background to Veum's life. Then we are taken back six months to a case involving a missing woman. Her friend Hege comes to him to ask him to help find her. Margrethe was a prostitute and, after turning away from a car one night, she was evidently very frightened. The woman who went in the car in her place returned injured. Margrethe's whereabouts are now unknown, and then shortly afterwards it is discovered that her brother Karl, who was in prison, is also missing. 

The book has a great lead character in Veum, a former social worker who puts this background to good use here when it comes to understanding and handling dysfunctional families, and individuals who haven't had a great start in life and/or those whose lives have taken a bad path. He uses his experience to dig deep and unravel the murky secrets of the past and discover how they have influenced the present. I enjoyed his interactions with the police and others as he pursued the truth. 

This is a well-plotted page-turner of a crime story with a firm sense of place. I really enjoyed the first-person narration by Veum; I liked getting to know his ways of thinking and his methods; when it comes to the investigation, he 'was impatient to get started. I knew from bitter experience that time was a thief. When you arrived where you wanted to go it was often too late.'

There's a dark tone to the tale, there is brutality, and there is a real feeling of sadness about the lives that some people endure and the bleaker aspects of society. Veum ponders '...what was it that caused lives to veer off in different directions? Was it possible to predict, or was it simply woven into your destiny from a very young age? Such fragile boundaries,...'

I am sometimes a little hesitant to read a novel that's part of a series when I haven't read the previous books. I found that despite not having read any other books in this series, I didn't have any problems enjoying this one or understanding anything. 

I thought the translation by Don Bartlett was really well done and read well. I love the blue/turquoise tones of the cover, and the image fits the story. I really enjoyed reading this one, for me it was a really good introduction into what seems to be a strong detective series; I will definitely be looking out for more of this series now.

Thank you to the publisher for kindly sending me a copy of this novel for an honest review.

Published by Arcadia Books
Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the interesting review, Lindsay: I've been meaning to try this series for some time now. I just discovered Arcadia Books recently, and they publish one of my new favorites, Dominique Manotti.


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