Where Roses Never Die – Guest Post by Gunnar Staalesen

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Today I am delighted to welcome the author of the Varg Veum series of crime novels, Gunnar Staalson, to my blog. Gunnar’s books are already best sellers in his native Norway. Thanks to Orenda Books they are now being made available in English. The latest to be translated is titled ‘When Roses Never Die’. You may find my thoughts on it here. In this guest post Gunnar explains where the title of the book came from, and tells us a little about his inspiration for the plot.

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I have always been fascinated by the type of religious songs you might hear in what is called a ‘bedehus’ in Norway: in English a chapel or a meeting house, where believers meet to celebrate their faith in God.

These are songs that take a simple, almost childish view of life and, perhaps more importantly, of the after-life – that place beyond the pearly gates, in a city ‘where the roses never fade’, which is, in fact, the English title of this type of song – of which I am so fond. You can find this song on YouTube and listen to it there. In Norwegian the title is ‘Der hvor roser aldri dør’ – ‘Where Roses Never Die’; and my wonderful English translator, Don Bartlett, chose this direct translation of the Norwegian for the title of my latest book published in English, instead of the more popular ‘Where the Roses Never Fade’. Whichever title you choose, the content is the same: for the people left behind there is comfort to be found in the belief that close relatives who are dead have simply travelled to another and much happier world; a place where the roses neither fade nor die. In the case of my latest Varg Veum thriller, it can also refer to what lies beneath the roses, but you’ll find out more about that when you read the book.

For me, this was the perfect title for a crime novel that was inspired by two real Norwegian crime cases, in which two very young girls – we know them both by name –disappeared without trace. Neither has ever been found, and what happened to them is known to no one except – if he still lives – the man (and it is most likely a man) who took them away

As a parent and grandparent I can’t think of a more cruel fate than this: a little child disappears, and, despite the efforts of the police and however much the media talks about it, you never get the answer to the question: What happened to our beloved child?

In Where Roses Never Die a woman comes to Varg Veum’s office and presents him with exactly this question. Her daughter, Mette, a three-year-old girl, disappeared from the sandpit outside her home almost twenty-five years earlier. Now, as the expiry date for the statute of limitations draws near, and the killer – if there is one – will go free, she asks Varg to make a last attempt to find out what happened to her little daughter. Varg is himself full of sorrow, and has for the previous three years, for his own reasons, drunk far too much of his favoured aquavit, so he is not sure if he is able to help this woman. Or perhaps even himself.

However, he takes on the mission, and it does not take him long to find out that there some dark secrets hidden behind the story of Mette’s disappearance. In fact,he has to dig deeper than the local sandpit to find answers.

Will he uncover the truth? You have to read the book to find the answer to that question. And while you are reading, why not listen to that beautiful song, ‘Where the Roses Never Fade’ in the background?

 

This post is part of the Where Roses Never Die Blog Tour. Do check out the other posts, detailed below.

Roses Never Die Blog tour (1)    Where Roses Never Die cover Vis copy 2

‘Where Roses Never Die’ is published by Orenda Books and is available to buy now. 

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Book Review: Where Roses Never Die

Where Roses Never Die cover Vis copy 2

Where Roses Never Die, by Gunner Staalsen (translated by Don Bartlett), is set three years after the first of the Varg Veum series to be translated into English, We Shall Inherit the Wind, which I review here.

At the start of the story Private Investigator Veum is in a bad way. He gets through each day by drinking and has been funding his habit by taking on the cases he would prefer to shun. The arrival in his office of Maja Misvaer, whose three year old daughter, Mette, disappeared from outside their home almost twenty-five years ago, offers him a chink of light in a life that has been overcome by the darkness of memory and loss.

The book opens with a robbery in a jewellery store during which an apparently random passer by is shot and subsequently dies. The robbers make their getaway by boat and, three months later, with no leads to follow, the police have all but given up on solving the crime. Veum followed the case in the papers but pays it little attention until he discovers that the murdered man had lived in the same housing complex as the little girl, whose wherabouts he has been commissioned to find, at the time she disappeared.

Veum interviews the police officers who investigated the initial disappearance as well as all those who lived in the five houses built around the courtyard where Mette was last seen playing. He discovers that these families were close in an unexpected way. With dogged determination he circumvents their reluctance to talk and digs into their pasts, unearthing secrets they had held close for decades.

The writing makes much use of narrative alongside Veum’s musings on the case. The voice I was hearing in my head brought to mind TV cops from the 70s with the use of similes and Veum’s moralistic stance, somewhat hypocritical given his own past behaviour. The feminist in me bristled at some of the attitudes but they realistically evoke the time and place. Norway, with its dark weather and uncompromising landscape, reflect the protagonist.

The plot twists and turns around each new revelation offering the reader much to ponder. The events leading up to the denouement had me dreading what was to be revealed. Despite my apprehension I could not look away.

A tense, starkly captivating read this is a must for fans of Nordic Noir. Highly recommended to all who look for depth and tenebrosity in their crime fiction.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Orenda Books.