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on 26 February 2013
To begin with, it is a highly recommended book - a mandatory reading book by the Norwegian Gunnar Staalesen. Though the plot is not complicated, it gradually turns out to be overwhelming, as it has to do with teen girls in prostitution, one of them found dead in a mountain. The author seems to know pretty well the youths' problems. He is not just revealing, page after page, who committed the crime, but importantly he reveals the vice and the (deadly) passion of certain people, the murderer's included.
The last pages are literally an overwhelming drama, totally unexpected.
The last pages reveal the author's pessimistic view on the dangers around youths - and that's the best thing in the book
Overall, definitely one of my favourite books.
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on 14 March 2017
Great books swift delivery, great stories for the lover of the genre
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on 13 January 2017
Another great book. Staalesen is terrific!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 March 2016
Between 1977-2014 the Norwegian crime writer Gunnar Staalesen, b. 1947, has published nineteen novels featuring Varg Veum, a sociologist specialising in childcare who, in frustration at the way in which society responds to issues surrounding children, has become a PI. He lives, like the author, in Bergen.

It is strange that, in this era of Nordic noir writing, only five of this series have been translated, especially since the author has long been at the forefront of crime writing in Norway. This is the eleventh in the series, being published in 1995, this translation by Hal Sutcliffe, 1942-2015, first appearing in 2004.

The books are narrated in the first person by Weum, whose name [from the phrase ‘varg i veum’] can be translated as ‘lone wolf’, ‘pariah’ or ‘persona non grata’. The author has explained that every private eye is really an outsider living on the inside, but is always outside society.

In this book, Staalesen’s detective is in his early 50s and in a steady relationship with Karin Bjørge, who works at the Public Registration office. Veum has a particular interest in cases involving children and this is a very dark and worrying investigation. There is clearly an interesting backstory [on the opening page Veum has just returned from the funeral of his ex-wife's most recent husband] but not knowing this does not significantly reduce the enjoyment of the story.

Veum is hired by a mother whose teenage girl has disappeared. He finds that she was involved with some very unsavoury characters and is warned off by receiving notification of his own funeral. The detail of the PI’s relationships with the head of the police investigation, DI Dankert Muus of the Personal and Violent Crime Department, and with Karin Bjørge, investigative reporter Laila Mongstad and a criminal called ‘The Knife’ are all sketched in but depend, to a degree, on what has been presented in the previous ten books. In true hard-boiled style, Varg is not deflected from his investigation by the police, uncooperative witnesses and parents; indeed this hostility only makes him more determined. The numerous fractured relationships between children and parents, and between parents, are particularly well portrayed.

Sutcliffe’s spare translation captures Vuem’s somewhat driven character perfectly and it excels in the evocative descriptions of the urban and rural scenery, and in the differences in the wintery weather between Bergen and Stavanger. Altogether, three translators have been involved in the English versions of Staalesen’s Veum novels and perhaps this has inhibited the creation of a particularly effective author/ translator relationship.

Veum’s background and age make him a somewhat different protagonist from the usual in Nordic noir. The links back to Philip Marlowe are obvious but subtly presented, and the very unpleasant story is shaded by the humour of Veum’s one-liners and observations.

The subjects of high-level corruption and child exploitation are not new, of course, but have rarely been handled with such assuredness as here. In 1995 one suspects that both topics would have raised eyebrows in Norway. One hopes that more of this series will be published, ideally in sequence, 9/10.
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on 15 August 2012
Staalesen is a very underrated crime writer. In Norway he is big, nearly on Nesbos level however he never seems to be rated highly outside of Norway. As I said highly underrated and well worth a read.
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on 1 February 2011
This was the first Gunnar Staalesen I have read and initially I found it a bit slow and difficult to get into. This may have been the translation? However, after about the first chapter I was totally hooked and found the characters plausible and interesting and the plot absolutely riveting. Make sure you don't take a peep at the ending because it will spoil what is an intricate and well constructed plot with several brilliant twists at the end. Definitely well worth the read and I will certainly be reading more books by this author.
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on 8 March 2010
I have read other Staaleson novels and have been impressed by the smooth translation. This must have been done by someone else, it unfortunately does not flow and the stilted language detracts from the yearn.
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