Scandanavian crime is in a class of its own. One of the highlights for me at this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival was to be the Crime Fiction event featuring two Norwegian writers – Jo Nesbø and K O Dahl. Or it would have if either of them had turned up. Nesbo cancelled a few days before the event to be fair. Dahl cancelled with about an hour to go. Was it the weather? Charlotte Square was swimming in about 3 inches of water at the time. But I’d stuck it out …..
Not only that I’d read about 1200 pages of their fiction in preparation – 3 novels, to be precise – 2 by Nesbø, 1 by Dahl.
K O Dahl has been a published author in Norway since 1993. The Fourth Man is the first of his novels to be translated into English. In it we are introduced to Frank Frolich, who for a cop seems remarkably well-adjusted. Then he saves Elizabeth Faremo from getting caught in some crossfire, falls hopelessly in love and risks his reputation and career to be with her. For she is the sister of a crook suspected of murder. As the investigation unfolds and the body count mounts, Frank Frolich finds it increasingly difficult to maintain his professional objectivity, especially when Elizabeth herself is threatened. Art theft, a malevolent businessman and the suspicion that Frank meeting Elizabeth was a setup in the first instance make this an excellent and highly recommended read.
Jo Nesbø has been published in English since 2005. However, the English translations did not appear in chronological sequence. The Devil’s Star (published 2005) is actually the sequel of The Redbreast (published 2006). I’d advise you to read them in the correct chronological sequence, although some readers don’t deem this detrimental to the reading experience. Either way, it’s hard to fault either of these fast-paced and furious thrillers. Nesbø’s detective Harry Hole has the usual problems yet he differs from other fictional detectives in that he’s a full-blown alcoholic and struggling to keep his job. Serial killers aren’t necessarily his worst nightmare either for he has enemies in the force. If the booze doesn’t kill him, these enemies might. Both books pivot around events from the past bearing consequence in the present. The Devil’s Star focuses on contemporary emnities while in The Redbreast rivalries emerge from the Second World War. This latter novel won the Nordic Riverton Prize and was recently voted best Norwegian thriller of all time by Norwegian readers and it is certainly a cracking and educational read. There is much to be learnt about the reasons for Norwegian collaboration with the Nazis and how this still resonates in contemporary Norway. In terms of plot, action, dialogue and entertainment I should really award 5 stars to both books. Harry is a brilliant creation, too brilliant, though, for the raging alcoholic he is depicted to be? Hence for both.