This is the latest outing for the author’s private investigator hero, Varg Veum. The reading of a series is always better if one has read the earlier novels, though how much so depends on the particular series and the particular book. While this could be read as a standalone, I think the enjoyment will be much heightened if the reader has read the previous title in the series, Wolves in the Dark, because the plot of this latest novel follows directly on from the last.
In Wolves in the Dark, Veum was accused of online paedophilia, with his computer tampered with and images of child abuse put on the hard drive. He managed to prove his innocence and discover who had attempted to set him up and why, but it was a close run thing. In Wolves at the Door, Veum is still trying to put his life back together. Mud sticks even when the claims are baseless while his work has suffered as he needed to concentrate on clearing his name.
One dark night while walking he is nearly knocked over by a speeding car. Veum is certain it wasn’t an accident, that someone tried to kill him, a notion that solidifies when he discovers that two of the men who were convicted for the child pornography have died suddenly in prison. He also becomes convinced that he is being followed, all of which leads to his mounting concern that he and those close to him are at risk.
I won’t divulge any more of the plot for risk of divulging spoilers, but needless to say Veum now investigates to get to the bottom of what he is up against. As with the last book, Wolves at the Door addresses issues of child abuse and paedophilia, and while not being too gratuitous, at points it can make for difficult reading.
Gunnar Staalesen is clearly influenced by Raymond Chandler and his creation, Varg Veum, has more of a touch of the Philip Marlowe about him, not least with his snappy dialogue. This is pulp American noir (I mean that in a good way) from the 1940s updated to modern-day Norway. To be sure, there’s a certain amount of suspension of disbelief needed; Veum traipses around Bergen asking questions, and for the most part people answer him, this despite the fact that he is not a police officer and has no legal force to compel them to. But it’s all good fun and compelling stuff and the author pulls it off with more than a little aplomb.
If you like the work of such greats as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, as well as works of Nordic noir, then with this you’ll be in for a treat. A well-written PI novel, this is an enjoyable, albeit at points slightly harrowing, read.
James Pierson 4/4
Wolves at the Door by Gunnar Staalesen
Orenda Books 9781912374410 pbk Jun 2019