Wolves at the Door by Gunnar Staalesen (tr. by Don Bartlett) #BookReview #BlogTour

The wolves are no longer in the dark … they are at his door. And they want vengeance…

The next instalment in the international, bestselling Varg Veum series by one of the fathers of Nordic Noir…

One dark January night a car drives at high speed towards PI Varg Veum, and comes very close to killing him. Veum is certain this is no accident, following so soon after the deaths of two jailed men who were convicted for their participation in a case of child pornography and sexual assault … crimes that Veum himself once stood wrongly accused of committing. While the guilty men were apparently killed accidentally, Varg suspects that there is something more sinister at play … and that he’s on the death list of someone still at large. Fearing for his life, Veum begins to investigate the old case, interviewing the victims of abuse and delving deeper into the brutal crimes, with shocking results. The wolves are no longer in the dark … they are at his door. And they want vengeance.

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Wolves at the Door by Gunnar Staalesen today. Many thanks to the author, Orenda Books and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my digital copy of the novel.

The title of this latest book in the long-running Varg Veum series is an indication that Veum will be forced to once again confront the case which saw him wrongly accused of being involved in child pornography in a previous story, Wolves in the Dark. Although the events in that book are the direct catalyst for what happens here, new readers can rest assured that Wolves at the Door can be enjoyed as a standalone novel.

When Veum is almost hit by a car one dark evening, the private investigator could have assumed it was just a coincidental near-accident caused by a reckless driver. However, a man like Varg Veum has more than his fair share of enemies but perhaps most worrying is the fact that he is aware of two recent deaths which have been passed off as 'died suddenly and unexpectedly.' The two dead men had both served time for child sexual abuse crimes and with Veum having briefly been accused of the same crime, he immediately senses that somebody has a plan - which probably includes him.
In Wolves in the Dark, he was a man broken by the tragedies that had befallen him and arguably easy prey for those who set him up. By the time of the last book in the series, Big Sister, it seemed that he mostly had his demons under control and the same is true here. He has a dry sense of humour and proactively responds to what he perceives could be a threat against him, rather than being forced to act to clear his name, as happened before.

He still has a melancholy air to him, of course, and retains his close relationship with a bottle of aquavit. Perhaps he is best summed up by the few lines where he recalls New Year,
'The turn of the year had never been high on the list of occasions I wanted to celebrate. I had spent most of them in solitary majesty, except for my loyal companions - a bottle of aquavit and the rain.'
He is a man who, during his career as a social worker and then as a private investigator, has seen the very worst that people are capable of. The topic of child abuse is never easy to read about and there are some disturbing scenes here but they are never graphic or gratuitous and actually, it's the words that are left unsaid which left a powerful impression on me. Wolves at the Door might be about Veum needing to ensure his own safety but it also sensitively and perceptively explores the devastating long-term effects of child abuse.

Varg Veum isn't the sort of man who avoids dangerous situations - and he actively ignores the instructions from the police to leave well alone but this is not an action thriller; it's a slower paced book which allows its protagonist the time to not only conduct his painstaking investigation but also to contemplate some thought-provoking topics, including the very natural desire for retribution and revenge. This is a complex novel with a number of characters who are linked by a dark and upsetting subject. As the book progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that what Veum uncovers is just the tip of the iceberg and the situation is far worse. In a world where young, vulnerable refugees are displaced from their families and the intricacies of the Dark Web mean paedophiles can easily share their abuse of their young victims across the world, it's depressing but not surprising that the authorities are struggling to cope.

Wolves at the Door is a necessarily challenging read, which will compel readers to consider their own moral perspective. If the perpetrators of these heinous crimes escape severe punishment, is it acceptable or excusable for a different form of justice to be meted out? As much I like to believe that I could never support vigilantism, if I discovered my own children had been targeted, I suspect I would think very differently and it's hard to find much sympathy for certain characters who are ostensibly the victims themselves here. This isn't a novel to race through; it deserves to be appreciated more slowly and with that in mind, Don Bartlett's excellent translation should be mentioned here as he ensures that the atmospheric, absorbing qualities of  Gunnar Staalesen's words are retained throughout.

I've come to eagerly anticipate each new Varg Veum instalment, knowing that I'll be treated to a beautifully written, challenging and contemplative read and that is most certainly true of Wolves at the Door. If you haven't yet been introduced to Varg Veum then I strongly recommend that you rectify that immediately, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Wolves at the Door is published by Orenda Books, purchasing links can be found here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

One of the fathers of Nordic Noir, Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over twenty titles, which have been published in twenty-four 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 Espen Seim. Staalesen has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour) and Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award for crime fiction. He lives with his wife in Bergen.

About the Translator

Don Bartlett 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 Gunnar Staalesen’s Varg Veum series: We Shall Inherit the Wind, Wolves in the Dark and the Petrona award-winning Where Roses Never Die. He also translated Faithless, the previous book in Kjell Ola Dahl’s Oslo Detective series for Orenda Books. He lives with his family in a village in Norfolk.


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