‘A vintage classic from the award-winning, multi-million bestselling Norwegian author Gunnar Staalesen, available in English for the first time’
– Bitter Flowers
[ About the Book ]
Fresh from rehab, Norwegian PI Varg Veum faces his most complex investigation yet, when a man is found drowned, a young woman disappears, and the case of a missing child is revived. The classic Nordic Noir series continues…
PI Varg Veum has returned to duty following a stint in rehab, but his new composure and resolution are soon threatened when a challenging assignment arrives on his desk.
A man is found dead in an elite swimming pool and a young woman has gone missing. Most chillingly, Varg Veum is asked to investigate the ‘Camilla Case’: an eight-year-old cold case involving the disappearance of a little girl, who was never found.
As the threads of these apparently unrelated crimes come together, against the backdrop of a series of shocking environmental crimes, Varg Veum faces the most challenging, traumatic investigation of his career.
[ My Review ]
Bitter Flowers by Gunnar Staalesen was published on January 21st in paperback original with Orenda Books (ebook November 20th). Don Bartlett is the wonderful translator of Bitter Flowers, a book that has never been available in English before. It has also been adapted for film, starring Norwegian actor Trond Espen Seim and is currently available for streaming.
Described as a ‘Nordic Noir Thriller’, Bitter Flowers sees the return of Private Investigator, Varg Veum. A hard-boiled P.I. with a few knocks behind him, Veum is just after leaving a rehab facility for drink-related issues. He has accepted he has a problem but wants to move on and get back to working again. His physio, Lisbeth Finslo, from the rehab centre organises a security job for him, one of a house-sitting nature. One evening she brings Veum to the home in question to oversee what his role will be. As he absorbs the stunning evening views in this architecturally designed luxurious home, Lisbeth suddenly re-enters the room in a state of shock. There is a dead body floating in the pool. Veum rushes to the scene, dives in and does his best to resuscitate the individual but it is too late. He goes outside the house, hears the police sirens but sees no trace of Lisbeth Finslo. Where did she disappear to? And so begins a tale that takes the reader into the sinister world of industrial crime and murder.
Varg Veum is a Nordic creation, similar to something you would expect from Raymond Chandler. He has an allure that draws in the reader. He is a lone-wolf who operates outside of the police. They tolerate his presence but are also sceptical of his methods. When Veum is asked to remove himself from this current case, he finds himself immersed in a cold-investigation of a little girl who went missing eight years ago. The ‘Camila Case’ as it was called, shocked a community but, with insufficient evidence to resolve it, it eventually became a file in a drawer… until now.
As Veum begins to analyse the little information available to him, he slowly starts to make loose connections but the whys and wherefores just keep slipping through his hands. His concern for Finslo is ever prevalent in his mind and when her sister asks for his private services outside the scope of the police investigation, Veum starts to link threads that to this point had been invisible to most. Veum is great at applying subtle pressures and pressing the appropriate buttons to uncover buried snippets and when he finally registers the crime and the methodology behind it, he makes his move, but is he too late? How many lives have been lost and damaged and what for?
Bitter Flowers feels a very contemporary read, although set in the 1980s, which is a testament to the writing of Gunnar Staalesen. Based primarily in and around Bergen, the city and its surroundings are very much brought to life with very vivid and precise descriptions of locations, adding a real sense of authenticity to the story. The environmental issues that arise bring the book right into the modern day, with the whole world currently working to fight the damage done to the climate over the decades.
An intricate mystery Bitter Flowers delves deep into murky waters with our hero Veum searching for the truth amidst corporate wrangling and hidden secrets. Greed is central to this tale of families destroyed and many lives lost over years of shrouded dishonesty and treacherous behaviour.
I thoroughly enjoyed Bitter Flowers as a classic murder mystery, while also offering the reader a snapshot of Norway through the eyes of the resilient and stalwart Varg Veum. Don Bartlett’s translation is excellent, seamlessly bringing the words of Gunnar Staalesen to an English speaking audience.
Engaging. Atmospheric. Current.
[ Bio ]
One of the fathers of Nordic Noir, Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series.
He is the author of over twenty titles, which have been published in twenty-four 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 Espen Seim. Staalesen has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour). Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award for Nordic Crime Fiction, and Big Sister was shortlisted for the award in 2019.
He lives with his wife in Bergen.
[ Bio ]
Don Bartlett lives with his family in a village in Norfolk. He 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 Nesbø and Karl Ove Knausgaard.
He has previously translated The Consort of Death, Cold Heart, We Shall Inherit the Wind, Where Roses Never Die and Wolves in the Dark in the Varg Veum series.