by Kjell Ola Dahl
Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back and this time, it’s personal… When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he ponders the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda investigates a disturbingly similar cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway and Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and the killer – before he strikes again.
Part of a series but a stand-alone police procedural with elements of the psychological thriller.
Translation by Don Bartlett.
Detective Frank Frølich from Violent Crime and Sexual Offences has been interviewing Veronika Undset on a routine case. He likes her, and it turns out she’s getting married to an old friend of his. She’s in trouble after being linked to thefts, although it’s a work associate of hers that’s the main person of interest. The fact his work and private life seem to be overlapping is no great worry, until Veronika is found dead, wrapped in plastic.
Meanwhile, in a different case handled by fellow Oslo detective Gunnarstranda, a young woman from Uganda has gone missing. She’s in Norway to study, but where is she? The hunt is soon on to find and save her before it’s too late.
The under pressure characters are well developed, perhaps helped by this being book seven in the series, but even those appearing for the first time are multi-dimensional. It’s also well-plotted; a procedural that combines different cases, including a cold case, linking them suitably and cleverly. The pace is handled with care, adding tension and building suspense, and just when you think you know it all, there is a final surprise you won’t have anticipated. Whilst it’s hardly a treadmill of action, it’s build ups make the book’s key moments more powerful.
There is violence, including murder and abuse, as well as the often appearing crimes of drugs and sexual exploitation. The power of family ties, betrayal and its flipside loyalty are explored.
The presence of Lena Stigersand add a different outlook and not just a gender difference. She is an independent thinker, prepared to go behind a colleague’s back if needs be. The book opens with rumours of her involvement in a damaging and doomed relationship, with a married copper.
This book may well stay with you beyond its reading. It shows how innocent people can easily become a threat to the guilty, putting themselves in danger. The fact that this could happen to anyone is chilling.
A final word for Frølich. He’s steadfast, stubborn grump: old school scepticism particularly of modern technology. And yet he’s good fun. A nice balance. It’s also a nice metaphor for his state that Frølich has to go underground to help solve the mystery.
About Kjell Ola Dahl:
One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.