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Thursday, 10 March 2022

‘Bitter Flowers’ by Gunnar Staalesen

Translated by Don Bartlett
Published by Orenda books,
20 January 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-91319308-9 (PB)

Bergen in the late 80s. PI Varg Veum has a new case, minding a classy modern house while the owners are on holiday – except it doesn’t begin well when he finds there’s a man dead in the swimming pool, and the friend who brought him to the house has gone missing...

This is an early case for Varg Veum translated into English for the first time, and it’s a cracker. If the opening feels complicated for Varg – especially as he’s alone with the body, and so chief suspect for his old adversary, Police Chief Hamre – his life gallops into hyperdrive, and soon he’s investigating the family behind a major corporation, with one brother its chief exec and another an environmentalist determined to expose their practices. But how can that link up with the long cold case of Camilla, the little girl who disappeared from her bedroom one night and was never found? – and yet, in a beautifully plotted ending, all three cases are wound up together, and you realise just how cleverly Staalesen has shown you all the clues while still pulling the wool over your eyes. Varg is great to spend time with, a Norwegian Philip Marlowe, and Siv, the bright student whose accident has turned her into a child with strange memories, is a haunting character. The eighties setting brings back memories, and we’re given an atmospheric tour of different areas of Bergen.

A page-turning PI investigation in 80s Bergen, with clever plotting, a great cast of characters, snappy dialogue and a vividly evoked setting.

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.

 Click on the title to read a review of her recent book
The Shetland Sea Murders

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