#BlogTour Book Review - Wolves in the Dark by Gunnar Staalesen (translated by Don Bartlett)

Reeling from the death of his great love, Karin, Varg Veum’s life has descended into a self-destructive spiral of alcohol, lust, grief and blackouts. When traces of child pornography are found on his computer, he’s accused of being part of a pedophile ring and thrown into a prison cell. There, he struggles to sift through his past to work out who is responsible for planting the material . . . and who is seeking the ultimate revenge. When a chance to escape presents itself, Varg finds himself on the run in his hometown of Bergen. With the clock ticking and the police on his tail, Varg takes on his hardest—and most personal—case yet. Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Wolves in the Dark reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.

I'm delighted to be one of the hosts for the Wolves in the Dark blog tour today, along with Vicki over at Cosy Books -  this is the first novel I've read by Gunnar Staalesen but the twenty first in his series of Varg Veum books so I have some back list to catch up on. I originally intended to just have a quick glance at the opening few pages prior to reading the book properly for the blog tour, before I knew it however, I was halfway through and had no intention of stopping reading! Despite being a well established series with some mention of past events I found the book still worked well as a standalone thriller  - albeit also an appetite whetter for those previous books.
Being accused of a crime you haven't committed is a terrifying thought, even worse when the crime is such a heinous one, and worse still when the evidence against you looks so compelling. The panic attack Varg Veum suffers when he realises the seriousness of the charges against him is almost palpable and from the very start I was gripped by this dark and chilling novel. Varg has been a broken man, the loss of the love of his life sent him into a downward spiral, and now he has to revisit his self-destructive past and decipher his shady memories to try and work out who would want to exact such shocking revenge on him. Following his risky escape he knows he only has a short time to discover the truth before his inevitable recapture but with the slimmest of clues to help him it looks very dark indeed for the imperilled private investigator.
 I wasn't sure how I felt about Varg to begin with, he's a somewhat dour character and his murky past isn't likely to endear him to many people. However, as the book progressed I found myself warming to him, his debauched lifestyle was a sad response to his tragic loss but ultimately he's a good and principled man. One of the joys of a well established series is the author knows his protagonist so well and this is definitely the case here. Varg Veum may have been thrust into a nightmare but his decisions and  actions all feel entirely in keeping with his character. That's not to say the book is predictable, it's anything but, it's just that Staalesen understands who Varg is and how he would respond, Wolves in the Dark is a fine example of author and lead character in perfect harmony.
Wolves in the Dark isn't an easy read, any book that deals with paedophilia is never going to be and the shocking truths revealed by Varg as he unravels his past are disturbing and upsetting. This is crime fiction at its most tense and gritty. Varg may be an older protagonist and easily duped by his more technologically advanced enemies but the book is anything but dated, it's a socially aware exposé of the horrors of child pornography in the internet age. The title of the book is a clever nod not only to its central character (Wolf in Norwegian is Varg) but also to the metaphorical wolves that prey on the innocent in the darker recesses of society. It's bleak and depressing in many ways, and a reminder that even when crimes are solved there are still victims for whom there isn't a simple happy ending. Wolves in the Dark is an intelligent and insightful novel and I'm looking forward to reading more of Gunnar Staalesen's books; I hope this pioneer of Scandinavian crime fiction continues to enjoy well deserved success in the UK too. Credit must also go to Don Bartlett for his seamless translation. Many thanks to the publishers for my advance copy and for inviting me to participate in the blog tour. Don't miss the posts by my fellow bloggers, dates are on the poster below.

Wolves in the Dark will be published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th June 2017. Follow Orenda on Twitter as @OrendaBooks

About the Author

Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway in 1947. He made his debut at the age of 22 with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over 20 titles, which have been published in 24 countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour), lives in Bergen with his wife. When Prince Charles visited Bergen, Staalesen was appointed his official tour guide. There is a life-sized statue of Varg Veum in the centre of Bergen, and a host of Varg Veum memorabilia for sale. We Shall Inherit the Wind and Where Roses Never Die were both international bestsellers.