Friday, 1 October 2010

Yours Until Death


I’ve read a few crime novels by Norwegian writers, but this Euro Crime paperback of a book first published as long ago as 1979 was my introduction to the work of Gunnar Staalesen. Yours Until Death is set in Bergen and features private detective Varg Veum, Staalesen’s main series character. And I thought it was excellent.

Credit must go to translator Margaret Amassien for an attractive piece of work – she renders Staalesen’s prose in a very appealing way. This is a well-written novel, which makes very good use of the Bergen backdrop, and it’s a much cleverer mystery than I anticipated after the early pages.

The story begins with a young boy, Roar, asking gumshoe Varg to help his mother, who is being menaced by a teenage gang which hangs out near their flat. Varg lends a hand, and quickly falls under the spell of the mother, the lovely Wenche Andresen. He finds himself embroiled in Wenche’s rather unfortunate private life, and when a man is found dead on the premises, Wenche is the obvious suspect. She is arrested, but Varg is determined to help her prove her innocence.

One unlikely feature of the book is the way so many characters confide very extensively in Varg, but Staalesen just about managed to get me to suspend my disbelief. The revelation about the main culprit comes as a genuine surprise. This is a very enjoyable private eye story, distinctive and memorable.

7 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - Thanks for this review. You always seem to find such interesting and unusual titles. This one sounds intriguing, and I always enjoy and respect it when authors can put one over on me, so to speak.

Janet O'Kane said...

Sounds interesting, Martin. And I love the idea of a female character called Wenche.

Maxine said...

I agree, this is an excellent book and a good series. Well, there are about 20 of them but only a few translated. Don Bartlett is doing them now. Consorts of Death was released recently, and although it is quite far on in the series, it is a bit of a "new start" for Varg so it can be read easily. This is also a very popular TV series in Norway, apparently.

I think this book is a little too wordy, but the author has dispensed with this in the later novels I have read.

Jose Ignacio Escribano said...

I'm glad you like it Martin, I've just moved it up in my TBR pile.

Tim said...

Recently reissued, I see. I enjoyed the previous two, so thanks for this.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments. Maxine, I didn't realise it was quite such a long series.

Dorte H said...

I also like the Varg Veum stories, but compared with other Scandinavian novels I think they have a rather old-fashioned flavour. The lone wolf waiting in the attic ... eh, the shabby office.