Kjell Ola Dahl are well known in Scandinavia -- there are 11 so far -- but had to wait for translation, and for Orenda Books to start bringing them across the Atlantic. FAITHLESS arrived in the U.S. in September, and provides a rewarding new direction in dark Scandinavian mysteries: a police procedural with depth of character and a wickedly dry sense of humor.
Inspector Frank Frølich, attending an engagement party for an old friend, discovers the new fiancée is a woman Frank had just arrested, then released, under a Norwegian legal function that allows someone to pay a fine for possession of illicit drugs at a personal use level. But that complication, which after all can be managed within careful polite manners, pales beside the next twist: the women, Veronika, soon becomes a murder victim. Is it a result of the arrest or the party or something else entirely?
Frølich's own past turns out to have some of the clues, a decidedly uncomfortable situation for the Oslo detective and his partner, Inspector Gunnarstranda. But the twists of plot get even more intense when their fellow detective Lena manipulates one of their colleagues, as well as stepping over the line toward baiting a dangerous criminal.
The translation by Don Bartlett (British) is smooth and well carried out; the scenes are short and sharp; and although the crimes involved are dark ones, and the settings more than a little spooky ("atmospheric" is another descriptor), the characters carry a force of will that makes it a pleasure to follow their investigations. I'm glad Orenda's brought this award-winning Norwegian author to our attention; I'll be watching for more of Dahl's work.
PS: Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.