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Monday, 26 December 2016

‘Chameleon People’ by Hans Olav Lahlum

Published by Mantel,
22 September 2016.
ISBN: 978-5098-948-6 (HB)
978-5098-949-3 (TPB)

March 1972. A boy arrives at the door of Oslo detective Kolbjorn Kristiansen (K2), with a blood-stained knife in his pocket. The police are hot on his trail, but he insists he’s innocent of the stabbing of politician Per Johan Frederiksen. Soon we find out there are plenty of other people who wanted the politician dead: a business rival, his family, his mistress, and the party and country he was about to betray ...

Hans Olav Lahlum writes in the ‘puzzle’ tradition of Agatha Christie, and the novels are narrated by K2 himself, the Hastings to Patricia, the Poirot of the series, a rich young woman who has been confined to a wheelchair since the accident in which she lost her parents. The novel’s narrated in a naive style which reflects K2’s plodding and sometimes simplistic thought processes – an adult Adrian Mole without the humour – and I did find this got tedious in a novel of this length, almost twice as long as a genuine Agatha Christie. In part this was because there was a double puzzle to solve – as well as the present-day murder, Frederiksen was also involved in murder in 1932, the unexplained death of his sister-in-law. The suspects are numerous, and there are numerous twists and surprises as the body-count mounts. K2’s relationship with Patricia is complicated by his engagement to Miriam, and he has difficulty in juggling the two women in his life, especially as Miriam wants to take Patricia’s place in helping him with the investigation.

A classic-style puzzle set against the backdrop of Norway’s EU vote in 1972.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Hans Olav Lahlum born 12 September 1973, is a Norwegian historian, crime author, chess player and organizer, and politician. He has written biographies on Oscar Torp and Haakon Lie, and a history book about all the Presidents of the United States.

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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