A Year of Orenda – The Ice Swimmer by Kjell Ola Dahl

Back to our Year Of Orenda and it’s day two of our Kjell Ola Dahl week, and the next book in the Oslo Detectives series – The Ice Swimmer. I’m re-sharing my thoughts on the book so read on to find out more about this absolutely brilliant series:

Source: Review Copy

About the Book

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 Frølich, 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.

Dark, complex and nail-bitingly tense, The Ice Swimmer is the latest and most unforgettable instalment in the critically acclaimed Oslo Detective series, by the godfather of Nordic Noir.

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My Thoughts

The Ice Swimmer sees Detective Lena Stigersand in the spotlight leading the investigation into the suspicious death of a young man found floating in the harbour. It initially seems as though the man may have fallen accidentally, under the influence of alcohol it being so close to Christmas and all. But things are never as straightforward as they may seem, and with the young man in question having had dinner with a key political figure just prior to his death, certain questions begin to arise. This leads Lena into a very complicated investigation, often constrained by the political clout of one of the key witnesses, an investigation which ultimately puts her in grave danger.

In contrast to Lena’s apparent case, Gunnarstranda is faced with an altogether messier but seemingly open and shut case – that of a junkie who was killed after stepping in front of a train. Again, this looks like at worst an accident, at best, a case of suicide but Gannarstranda has an itch he needs to scratch, a sort of doubt about the ins and out of the case itself. The facts he uncovers lead to some very surprising conclusions.

What I loved about this book is the way in which Kjell Ola Dahl creates such a sense of authenticity in setting and character. Oslo is painted clearly for the reader, the sights, sounds and senses, as well as providing a vibrant picture of the political and environmental concerns informing this story. All of the nuances in the writing style feed into the narrative perfectly and create an atmospheric backdrop for an intriguing and thrilling mystery.

Character wise, Lena would be considered a formidable opponent for any foe. Typically tenacious and determined, she is also slightly off kilter in this book, her normal common sense approach sidetracked by her fears for her own personal health. we see her questioning her own future, the priorities she thought she had, and in her need for security and routine against a backdrop of uncertainty, she makes choices that are uncharacteristically at odds with her sense of duty.

Gunnarstranda is another fascinating character. Methodical and thorough in approach, he is a strong character who doesn’t suffer fools and is struggling with the incompetence and apparent lackadaisical attitude of new kid on the block, Axel Rise. It is hard to get the measure of Rise as a character in the early days, distracted as he is by an over long commute and a lack of understanding of the local team. Where Lena and Gunnarstranda make a great team, bouncing off and supporting each other, Rise is very much on his own and not a team player.

The man who is missing from their team, noticeable by his absence but otherwise occupied, or not, following the events at the end of Faithless, is Frølich. He makes an appearance or two in the book, albeit brief, but is still a key part of the investigation on an unofficial level. I do like the trio as a team – they work perfectly together – and it is a relief to see that Frølich still had a part to play.

Pacing is not always fast, I wouldn’t expect it of this kind of novel and it is highly typical of the genre to be fair. There are moments when it picks up, when the stakes are significantly raised for more than one character, but the rest of the novel is steady and measured, exactly as it needs to be. The case itself is twisty, the facts being slowly uncovered even as the tension gradually mounts. There are moments which will give you chills, and not just as you imagine the cold pre-Christmas climate around Oslo. There is an ongoing sense of menace which pervades the text, an unnerving undercurrent of mystery and a sense that the truth is right there under your nose if only you could sniff it out.

Altogether it combines to form a compelling and complex case which will have you chomping down on your nails, waiting to see what happens and if our intrepid team will eventually come good. Take nothing at face value as all is not quite as it seems.

Brilliant stuff.

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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