Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl

Review published on May 5, 2017.

Faithless is the first of this author’s novels that I’ve read and I think it might be the first of his works to be translated into English. Either way, it’s part of a series, but it can easily be read as a standalone, as indeed I did.

Inspector Frank Frolich of the Oslo police is involved in an operation targeting an organised crime boss. He pulls over a woman leaving the boss’ house and searches her, only to find a small amount of cocaine. She’s charged and fined and that is apparently that. That evening he attends a party only to find the woman he arrested that morning in attendance. It’s an awkward situation to put it mildly. Fast forward a day or so and the woman is found dead, her body scalded, wrapped in plastic and dumped in a dumpster. For various personal reasons, Frolich wants as little to do with the case as possible, preferring to spend his time investigating the disappearance of an African woman who was in Sweden to attend an international summer school. His bosses insist however and so he must work across both cases.

Faithless is billed as a novel featuring Oslo detectives, as in the plural, and I gather that Frolich and a second detective, Gunnarstranda, are supposed to be the main characters. They certainly feature most, but a strength of this book is how the author brings to life their various colleagues. In this way, Faithless mirrors Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series, or the novels of Joseph Wambaugh. In particular, we get to know Lena Stigersand, an intelligent cop who’s clearly destined to go far, Stale Sender, a crass bully-boy thug, and their boss Mustafa Rindal, who’s recently married a Muslim and converted to Islam. All of them have their parts to play in the narrative and all contribute to the investigation; this gives an air of realism to the novel that is often lacking from police procedurals, as all too often in the genre the trope of the rogue/maverick cop taking it upon themselves to solve a case is trotted out.

This is a well-crafted procedural with various twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. With well-developed characters, it’s a good, solid, slice of Nordic noir.

James Pierson 4/4

Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl
Orenda 9781910633274 pbk Apr 2017

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Crimes of Winter by Philippe Georget, trans. Steven Randall

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