Big Sister by Gunnar Staalesen Orenda Books June 20th 2018
Varg Veum receives a surprise visit in his office. A woman introduces herself as his half-sister, and she has a job for him. Her god-daughter, a 19-year-old trainee nurse from Haugesund, moved from her bedsit in Bergen two weeks ago. Since then no one has heard anything from her. She didn’t leave an address. She doesn’t answer her phone. And the police refuse to take her case seriously.
Veum’s investigation uncovers a series of carefully covered-up crimes and pent-up hatreds, and the trail leads to a gang of extreme bikers on the hunt for a group of people whose dark deeds are hidden by the anonymity of the Internet. And then things get personal…
This is one of those novels where you feel you have arrived late to a party and you hope you haven’t missed all the best bits. Why oh why have I not read Gunnar Staalesen before?
Big Sister is the latest in the series featuring PI Varg Veum, who is now apparently in his sixties and I can imagine a lot has happened to him in the previous novels that I would be unaware of. However Big Sister is the perfect standalone novel and no prior knowledge was required.
Veum himself, seemed a quiet, understated kind of guy, a detective who preferred methods that didn’t necessarily involve violence and brutish behaviour. I admired his methodical, tenacious and people centered approach to investigating and solving the mystery.
It wasn’t just his investigative skills that I liked but also his character. Veum was definitely not your average one dimensional type, but instead consisted of multiple layers, Staalesen slowly revealed. The case was deeply personal to him, involving family members that he knew nothing or very little about and his personal discovery of who he was and where he came from weaved seamlessly into the storyline. It was a balance between the personal and professional aspects of his character that I admired so much, Staalesen’s narrative capturing it in writing that was both skilful and evocative.
Not only was Staalesen’s characterisation brilliant, his sense of place and the settings were just as good. He gave me wonderful images of the towns he visited, the landscape and the sprawling city of Bergen, both the good and the bad side.
But this is a crime novel thriller, you yell, what about that side of the story? If your looking for fast paced then Big Sister is definitely not fast, instead it is slow burning and intricate. Just as you think you had worked it all out, another character crawls out of the woodwork, another discovery emerges and spins you in another direction. There is very little of what you would call action and violence, Staalesen makes you think, very much in the vain of older crime and thriller novels. There are one or two violent episodes and a graphic scene, but nothing that makes you recoil in horror as some crime novels. One thing that it does have in common with other crime novels is a fantastic twist towards the end, and I didn’t guess it!
Big Sister is a quiet thriller of vivid descriptions of the towns and landscapes, it is a novel of characters and their traits, both good and bad. It is a novel with a contemporary feel that exudes from the pages and I loved it.
I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy to read and review and to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to take part in the blogtour.
About The Author
Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway in 1947. 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. When Prince Charles visited Bergen, Staalesen was appointed his official tour guide. There is a life-sized statue of Varg Veum in the centre of Bergen, and a host of Varg Veum memorabilia for sale. Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award.
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