Translated by Don Bartlett

Fresh from rehab, PI Varg Veum faces his most complex investigation yet, when a man is found drowned, a young woman disappears, and the case of a missing child is revived. The classic Nordic Noir series continues…

PI Varg Veum has returned to duty following a stint in rehab, but his new composure and resolution are soon threatened when three complex crimes land on his desk.

#BitterFlowers #GunnarStaalesen @OrendaBooks
#RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours
#nordicnoir #vargveum #blogtour

A man is found dead in an elite swimming pool. A young woman has gone missing. Most chillingly, Veum is asked to investigate the ‘Camilla Case’: an eight-year-old cold case involving the disappearance of a little girl, who was never found.

As the threads of these three apparently unrelated cases come together, against the backdrop of a series of shocking environmental crimes, Veum faces the most challenging, traumatic investigation of his career.

My Review

While this is a great story with an exciting and intricate plot, what stands out for me is the constant stream of unusual metaphors which spring from the brain of our intrepid hero PI Varg Veum. One of my favourites is: ‘On pavements people strolled, in couples or groups, at their ease like lemmings on Valium.’ The list is endless, It could form another whole book called Veum’s Veumisms.

PI Varg Veum has returned to duty following a stint in rehab and just when he is hoping for a new start, his life is thrown into turmoil. He’s been asked by one of his therapists – Lisbeth Finslo – to look after a posh house for the wealthy owners, who are on holiday in Spain. Unfortunately what he finds is a body at the bottom of the swimming pool. As he rushes out of the house, Lisbeth is nowhere to be found.

So now we have both a dead man and a missing woman. And if that is not enough, he is asked to investigate the ‘Camilla Case’ – an eight-year-old cold case involving the disappearance of a little girl, who was never found.

Seemingly unrelated, a successful company called A/S Norlon has been singled out by environmental group Greenearth as an example of a company that is damaging the environment by dumping toxic waste. It has become the focus of a not-yet violent protest and has split the family ie Harald Schroder-Olsen and his son Trygve and other son Odin. They also have a sister Siv, who following a tragic accident, has the mental capacity of a five-year-old at 26. I’ll leave it there as the company history is too complicated to try and describe in detail.

Bitter Flowers is a very sophisticated crime thriller with a cast of well-drawn characters, that will keep you reading into the night. Just be aware, however, that at times you will really need to concentrate and sometimes have to re-read some passages to keep track of what is going on. As Veum begins to link the crimes and the people involved, the action ramps up into an explosive final few chapters which will leave you gasping, including some very unexpected twists. This is Nordic Noir at its very best.

Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours.

About the Author

One of the fathers of Nordic Noir, Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over twenty titles, which have been published in twenty-four 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 Espen Seim. Staalesen has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour); Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award for Nordic Crime Fiction, and Big Sister was shortlisted in 2019. He lives with his wife in Bergen.

Granite Noir fest 2017. Gunnar Staalesen.

Orenda Books is a small independent publishing company specialising in literary fiction with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, and approximately half the list in translation. They’ve been twice shortlisted for the Nick Robinson Best Newcomer Award at the IPG awards, and publisher and owner Karen Sullivan was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016. In 2018, they were awarded a prestigious Creative Europe grant for their translated books programme. Three authors, including Agnes Ravatn, Matt Wesolowski and Amanda Jennings have been WHSmith Fresh Talent picks, and Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, won an English PEN Translation Award, and adapted for BBC Radio Four ’s Book at Bedtime. Six titles have been short- or long-listed for the CWA Daggers. Launched in 2014 with a mission to bring more international literature to the UK market, Orenda Books publishes a host of debuts, many of which have gone on to sell millions worldwide, and looks for fresh, exciting new voices that push the genre in new directions. Bestselling authors include Ragnar Jonasson, Antti Tuomainen, Gunnar Staalesen, Michael J. Malone, Kjell Ola Dahl, Louise Beech, Johana Gustawsson, Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Sarah Stovell.

1 Comment on “Bitter Flowers by Gunnar Staalesen

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