Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl, translated by Don Bartlett.
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.
About the Translator
Don Bartlett completed an MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in 2000 and has since worked with a wide variety of Danish and Norwegian authors, including Jo Nesbo and Karl Ove Knausgard. For Orenda he has translated several titles in Gunnar Staalesen’s Varg Veum series: We Shall Inherit the Wind, Wolves in the Dark and the Petrona award-winning Where Roses Never Die. He has also translated two books in Kjell Ola Dahl’s Oslo Detectives Series for Orenda – Faithless and The Ice Swimmer.
About the book
Oslo detective Frølich searches for the mysterious sister of a young female asylum seeker, but when people start to die, everything points to an old case and a series of events that someone will do anything to hide…
Suspended from duty, Detective Frølich is working as a private investigator, when his girlfriend’s colleague asks for his help with a female asylum seeker, who the authorities are about to deport. She claims to have a sister in Norway, and fears that returning to her home country will mean instant death.
Frølich quickly discovers the whereabouts of the young woman’s sister, but things become increasingly complex when she denies having a sibling, and Frølich is threatened off the case by the police. As the body count rises, it becomes clear that the answers lie in an old investigation, and the mysterious sister, who is now on the run…
A dark, chilling and up-to-the-minute Nordic Noir thriller, Sister is also a tense and well-plotted murder mystery with a moving tragedy at its heart, cementing Kjell Ola Dahl as one of the greatest crime writers of our generation.
I enjoyed the fact this wasn’t just a crime read. In this journey of a story the author brings in politics, cultural dynamics and the eternal conflict of loss and grief. It’s meticulously plotted, even if it often seems as if the reader is just along on the ride with Frølich as he tries to navigate a new relationship.
His new love interest asks him to do a friend of hers a favour, whether he can look for the sister of an asylum seeker, a sister who has changed her name and disappeared into the folds of Norway. At the time Frølich thinks there is something off about the way the young woman is unable to answer the majority of his questions, but when his search rattles some cages and has people knocking on his door he is certain there is more to the story.
It’s Nordic noir, a subtle mystery and a scathing critique at times. It points a huge finger right at the inadequacies of asylum systems and the fraudulent practices supported by the complacency and indifference in our societies.
Can I just add, as a side-note, that the chapter with the gynaecologist or indeed that character in particular has left an impression. I wouldn’t necessarily say a good one – more like a creepy uncomfortable experience with a deviant, who has no clue he is on the cusp of deviancy and yet firmly believes he is the overlord of female genitalia.
The author creates this plot within a plot, which doesn’t necessarily bring the reader close to the solution per se, because Dahl is far too wily for that, but it is one heck of a read.