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Monday 19 September 2016

‘Where Roses Never Die’ by Gunnar Staalesen

Translated by Don Bartlett
Published by Orenda Books,
30 June 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-91063-309-0

Twenty-five years ago, three-year old Mette went missing from the sandpit in her garden. Her mother has asked maverick PI Varg Veum to have a last, desperate look before the case is shelved. As he starts to dig he uncovers a web of secrets in this seemingly ordinary housing estate.

This novel is narrated by Varg, a former child-welfare officer and ex-cop turned PI with a tragedy in his past and a current alcohol problem. He has a sardonic voice, quick wits, a nose for the out-of-place, and a compassionate heart. The other characters are also sympathtically drawn: the mother who hasn’t been able to move on, the couples who lived around her, and their children, now grown up, but still scarred by the events of that year. The novel’s set in Bergen, and Staalesen gives you a real feel of the city and its people as Varg moves around tracking down the people involved. The ‘hook’ of the child’s disappearance keeps you reading on, and the opening scene, an apparently unconnected jewel robbery, is skilfully woven into the main plot. There’s an unexpected twist in the end, and a moving finish. This is the sixth of the Varg series to be translated, so if you enjoy Scandis with a strong male protagonist and a real sense of place and society, you might like to start earlier – the first book is Yours until Death.

A PI quest for the truth about a missing child with a strong hook and unexpected ending. Recommended.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Gunnar Staalesen was born 19 October 1947 in Bergen, Norway. He made his debut at the age of 22 with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over 20 titles, which have been published in 24 countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour), lives in Bergen with his wife.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

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