We Shall Inherit the Wind, by Gunnar Staalesen (translated by Don Bartlett) is a dark and brooding crime thriller which transports the reader to the wind swept islands of western Norway. The voice of the protagonist is distinctly male and Scandinavian but the female characters are no mere adornments. This is a story populated with a strong and often hostile cast as befits the environment in which they play their parts.
The opening chapter sees Varg Veum, a fifty-five year old private investigator, sitting by the hospital bedside of his girlfriend Karin who is in a coma with life threatening injuries. Verg blames himself for her condition and what follows is the story of how they ended up in this place.
Varg reminds me of the investigators from television series of old yet this story is contemporary in nature. At its heart is a controversial wind farm development on a remote island and the clash between business interests, religious fundamentalists, the economic prospects for locals and a variety of environmental concerns. It is rarely made clear who the good or the bad guys are. The reader is not unduly led to take sides in the various arguments, a nebulosity which adds to the strength of the tale.
Travelling around the fjords and islands the bleakly beautiful landscape dominates the narrative. As the various characters fight for their corners the reader is shown the transience of individuals when placed against a backdrop of unforgiving weather and mighty sea.
There are detailed descriptions of the people Varg meets, their physical appearance and the clothes they wear. Houses are also fully presented: surroundings, building style, colour schemes, furniture, ornaments, the pictures on the walls.
I enjoyed some of the similes used:
An unknown face in an out of the way place “like a flower arrangement in a garage workshop”
A female character “like a perfumed glacier”
I will ever after think of the old library at Trinity College, Dublin as “the place where all books went when they died”
The plot is compelling with new intrigues unfolding as each page is turned. I had not anticipated the denouement. Although somewhat shocking in nature it was a satisfying conclusion.
This book is already an international bestseller and it is easy to see why. A distinctive and welcome addition to the crime fiction genre, I look forward to reading more of Varg Vaum’s adventures which the publisher has promised will be released over the next couple of years.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Orenda Books.