Wolves in the Dark by Gunnar Staalesen

Review published on July 4, 2017.

It is hard to believe that Gunnar Staalesen introduced the world to Varg Veum over forty years ago, and that even after all this time, his noir is just as fresh as at first. Never judge his books by the cover (under Orenda Books they are brilliant) or the thickness, what Staalesen delivers in just over two hundred pages others need five hundred. As a wordsmith he wastes nothing, and once again his work is brilliantly translated by Don Bartlett – a match made in heaven.

Veum’s doorbell is ringing and there is hammering at the door. He is still hungover from the night before when he opens the window to find Bergen’s local police force is outside his front door. He lets them in like the good citizen he is, but then finds himself promptly under arrest. He is confused, especially when they seize his computer and mobile phone.

It is when he is sat opposite a police solicitor, who has no time for him, and a former contact in the police station, that he is shocked to find he has been arrested for owning and distributing abusive images of children and being part of an international paedophile ring. The police do not believe him when he tells them he has no idea how the images got on his computer, or that he is barely sober, especially since the death of his lover Karin.

Even with his solicitor’s help and the expert he brings in the police simply do not believe Veum and he is forced to think of his more lucid moments as too who may dislike him enough to set him up, but being a private investigator that list is rather long. It is when he is left alone at the police station that the opportunity arises and he escapes and sets out to prove his innocence.

Dodging the police around Bergen, he delves into his memory to think of people who may know their way around a computer who he had annoyed enough to be set up. Unfortunately, he found himself with a long list and he knew he would have to chase down every lead to find the truth. Veum knows that it is not just his reputation on the line but his liberty also.

Once again Staalesen proves with this book why he is at the height of his powers, adapting Varg Veum to the age that story is set in. Once again, his gritty writing, conscious of the current fears of society as a whole, and touches the darkest parts of a person’s soul. His storytelling draws you in and leaves you breathless all the way to the end, and like a fine wine, always leaving you wanting more, but you know you blood pressure could not take it.

Paul Diggett 5/5

Wolves in the Dark by Gunnar Staalesen
Orenda Books 9781910633724 pbk Jun 2017

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