The Ice Swimmer by Kjell Ola Dahl (tr. Don Bartlett) #BookReview #BlogTour

When a dead man is lifted from the freezing waters of Oslo Harbour just before Christmas, Detective Lena Stigersand's stressful life suddenly becomes even more complicated. Not only is she dealing with a cancer scare, a stalker and an untrustworthy boyfriend, but it seems both a politician and Norway's security services might be involved in the murder. With her trusted colleagues, Gunnarstranda and Frolich, at her side, Lena digs deep into the case and finds that it not only goes to the heart of the Norwegian establishment, but it might be rather to close to her personal life for comfort. 

It is such a pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for The Ice Swimmer by Kjell Ola Dahl today. My grateful thanks to the author, publishers and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.
Two tragic deaths just before Christmas seem to be grim but unconnected and simple cases for Detective Lena Stigersand and Inspector Gunnarstranda to investigate. Lena is called to the drowning of a young man in Oslo Harbour - probably as a result of an alcohol fuelled accident after a night out, and Gunnarstranda's case seems even more straightforward after a homeless drug addict throws herself in front of a train. However, the evidence doesn't match the hypotheses and before long they realise that both deaths seem to be more sinister - and that their cases may have more in common than just the date of death.
 Though the intricacies of the investigations are utterly intriguing, character development is equally engrossing as Kjell Ola Dahl allows space in the novel to reveal more about their personal and inner lives. Indeed there is a whole page dedicated to Gunnarstranda's recipe for fish soup; it has nothing to do whatsoever with the investigation but gives us an insight into the sort of man he is, and how his meticulous preparation of soup is mirrored by his scrupulous attitude to police work. The Ice Swimmer is really Lena Stigersand's book however, as most of the events unfold from her perspective as her professional and private lives collide. She is clearly a perceptive and dedicated officer but her concerns about her health and her tentative relationship with journalist, Steffen Gjerstad means her focus becomes torn. The emotional demands of the case are shown to have a real impact on Lena as she tries to discover who can be trusted when she uncovers shady political dealings, and it is through her that the impact of police work on the mental health of officers is explored.
The slower pace means the plot is allowed to evolve gradually and though the story is a contemporary one, the timeless quality to the narrative meant this was a book I wanted to truly appreciate by losing myself in it for a few hours rather than racing to the end. There is an evocative richness to Kjell Ola Dahl's writing as his detailed descriptions evoke the chill of the Oslo streets and the tangled lives of the characters in the book. The Ice Swimmer is imbued with a real sense of the subtle melancholy that effects many of us during the long winter months. This isn't a book about the triumphant capture of a murderer, it's about the dogged determination for some justice to be served while recognising a system which protects some more than others.
The complexities of the plot may demand the reader's full attention but in return they are rewarded with an engrossing and beautifully crafted novel. Praise too for Don Bartlett's translation which ensures the prose flows naturally throughout. Intricate, intelligent and suspenseful, The Ice Swimmer is everything I love about Nordic Noir and it is a book that captivated me from the very first page through to the startling finale. Highly recommended.

The Ice Swimmer is published by Orenda Books and can be purchased here. If you'd like to follow the other stops on the blog tour details can be found below.

About the Author

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.
Website  Twitter

About the Translator

Don Bartlett lives with his family in a village in Norfolk. He completed an MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in 2000 and has since worked with a wide variety of Danish and Norwegian authors, including Jo Nesbø and Karl Ove Knausgård. He has previously translated The Consorts of Death and Cold Hearts in the Varg Veum series.


Post a Comment