Fallen Angels by Gunnar Staalesen (tr. by Don Bartlett) #BookReview #BlogTour


Ever-dogged Bergen PI Varg Veum has to dig deep into his own past as he investigates the murder of a former classmate. Eighth in an international-bestselling series of Nordic-Noir thrillers.
When Bergen PI Varg Veum finds himself at the funeral of a former classmate on a sleet-grey December afternoon, he’s unexpectedly reunited with his old friend Jakob – the once-famous lead singer of 1960s rock band The Harpers – and his estranged wife, Rebecca, Veum’s first love.
Their rekindled friendship come to an abrupt end with a horrific murder, and Veum is forced to dig deep into his own adolescence and his darkest memories, to find a motive … and a killer.
Tense, vivid and deeply unsettling, Fallen Angels is the spellbinding, award-winning thriller that secured Gunnar Staalesen’s reputation as one of the world’s foremost crime writers.

It's such a pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Fallen Angels today. Many thanks to Gunnar Staalesen, Orenda Books and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the book.

I've read a few books in Gunnar Staalesen's long-running Varg Veum series and always look forward with great anticipation to the next instalment. Fallen Angels actually takes us back in time as it was originally published in Norway in 1989 and being set in the 1980s, it gives English-speaking readers the opportunity to meet the younger Veum.
The book's typically melancholy opening finds Veum at the funeral of an old classmate where he is reunited with two other childhood companions, most notably Jakob Aasen. If Fallen Angels allows us to see the younger man then it forces Veum himself to look even further back at his past as he recalls his formative years with some longing - albeit with the jaded cynicism of a man who has witnessed too much and who understands what awaits children as they grow into adults.
The slow-burning pace of the novel allows for a thoughtful exploration of psychology and religion but even the more superficial discussions - of the music of The Beatles, for instance  - are given breathing space as the dialogue flows naturally throughout. Praise must be given to Don Bartlett here, of course for his excellent translation which loses nothing of the lyrical quality of the original writing. 
The keen observation of human behaviour is complemented by the rich descriptions of Bergen, including the inclement weather and the exterior and interior environments of the town. The less salubrious nightlife is brought vividly to life with the fevered, highly-charged atmosphere ensuring the juxtaposition between the theological elements of the storyline and the explicit sensual and sexual encounters mean the term, 'sins of the flesh' have perhaps never been more apt.
The rising body count increases almost imperceptibly during the course of the novel which becomes a compelling exploration of the terrible consequences of the night of sixteenth October 1975. Jakob was once a member of a successful Norwegian band, The Harpers but everything came to an abrupt end that night and Varg becomes convinced that the truth as to what happened holds the key to the present day murders.
The awful truth is gradually revealed but although the final confirmation isn't unexpected, it's still shocking. Gunnar Staalesen doesn't devalue the horrific revelations by concluding the novel with a happy ending. The seedy reality is more painful and more brutal with few characters remaining untarnished by their part in what happened. Having knowledge of the older Varg Veum means it's fascinating to see how an earlier case like this has shaped who he became, explaining the darkness which haunts him throughout his life but it's not necessary to have read either prior or later novels in the series and Fallen Angels can easily be enjoyed as a standalone novel.
This isn't an easy read, emotionally and it is a harrowing examination of some of the worst of human behaviour but the sheer poetry of Gunnar Staalesen's writing is an absolute delight throughout and this evocative, powerful novel is another welcome addition to this exceptional series.  Highly recommended.

Fallen Angels is published by Orenda Books, it is available now as an ebook and will be out in paperback on 12th November 2020. Purchasing links can be found here but please support independent bookstores whenever possible, either by buying directly from them or by ordering through Bookshop.org which is a new, ethical marketplace that ensures independent bookshops receive their full profit margin (30 per cent of the cover price) for each sale they generate on the platform.

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, and Big Sister was shortlisted in 2019. 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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