A Year of Orenda – Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl

Today, as part of our ongoing Year of Orenda, I’m sharing my thoughts on Faithless, part of the Oslo Detectives series by Kjell Ola Dahl. This is the first in a week of reviews of the series, leading to the latest novel, Sister, later in the week. Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Review Copy

About the Book

Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back … and this time, it’s personal…

When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her … and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he begins to learn more about the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda deals with a disturbingly similar cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway. An unsettling number of coincidences emerge, and Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and to catch the killer before he strikes again.

Dark, brooding and utterly chilling, Faithless is a breath-taking and atmospheric page-turner that marks the return of an internationally renowned and award-winning series, from one of the fathers of Nordic Noir.

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My Thoughts

When it comes to reading Orenda Books translated fiction, I am always excited as Karen Sullivan has an amazing eye for talent and I have yet to read a book she has chosen to champion that I haven’t loved. Faithless, I am very glad to say, was no exception.

There is always a little trepidation when starting a book which is not the first in a series as you can’t be sure that you haven’t missed out on something vitally important in the past books which will inform the book you are reading. I would say though that Faithless can be read as a standalone as I got enough of each of the characters to understand their relationship and dynamic and how they all fit into the story. That said, I don’t want to read it as a standalone so have purchased the other books in the series currently in translation. I’m only gutted that there are only four (now five) out of the eleven translated right now but I’m hoping Karen has plans to remedy that.

Anyway. I digress. What about Faithless? Well the book opens up with one of the protagonists, Frank Frølich engaged in a stakeout on a man suspected of being behind a strong of high value robberies in the area. When Frølich detains a woman who is seen leaving the suspect’s house, little can he know that his past is about to come back to haunt him. When the woman is later found dead in a way reminiscent of a past murder, and an old friend is implicated, he is forced to confront a past he would rather remained forgotten.

The book is slower in pace than your typical British or American thriller but for me that is what is so appealing about Scandi or Nordic Noir. The way in which the authors are able to build the tension without having to rely upon high speed chases or gratuitous or graphic shocks and thrills. Dahl has created tension a plenty in this book, and there are a couple of really edge of the seat moments where both Frølich and his colleague Lena Stigersan find themselves in great peril with their lives on the line. He has also managed to create an absolute twister of a plot in which I genuinely did not manage to guess who the killer was before the facts were thrust in my face at the end. There are so many suspects, so many people with motive and opportunity and at one stage it almost seems a foregone conclusion as to who the perpetrator was. And yet no. Dahl completely blindsided me. Love it.

The characterisations in the novel are brilliant. Although these are already established characters, I was easily able to pick up with them and I was completely invested in their fates. They are unique; there is a real feeling of authenticity about each and every one. Frølich, lonely and looking for companionship and yet in this book plagued by a past which looks set to ruin him. I really began to like his character and his relentless pursuit of the truth, no matter the personal cost. Lena, also trying to find that elusive someone and taking sanctuary in a completely inappropriate relationship. She also risks everything to solve the case, and she was a truly intriguing character. And even Gunnarstranda was a character I grew to like. He is more measured in approach, perhaps due to his seniority, but his battles with accepting his partner’s faith in things outside of the physical plain did provide some moments of light in an otherwise dark story.

The violence in this book is not hidden but it is not necessarily graphic in detail either. The setting is vivid and beautifully described and this is also a feature of Nordic noir which has me hooked. The way in which Dahl has captured the essence of the country within the pages, the ethics, the landscape, the lifestyle, seems effortless. I have no doubt this is aided by a seamless translation by Don Bartlett. My hats off to both and also to Orenda for bringing us another stunning work of fiction.

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.

Author Links: Twitter

Books by Kjell Ola Dahl

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