A Year of Orenda – Where Roses Never Die by Gunnar Staalesen

Welcome to day two of Varg Veum week on Jen Med’s. Today I have a review of the next book in the Varg Veum series, Where Roses Never Die. I’m loving catching up on the series and would highly recommend it to any crime fiction lover as Varg is a brilliant character and Gunnar Staalesen a master at his craft. Here’s what the book is about:

Source: Amazon

About the Book

September 1977. Mette Misvær, a three-year-old girl disappears without trace from the sandpit outside her home. Her tiny, close middle-class community in the tranquil suburb of Nordas is devastated, but their enquiries and the police produce nothing. Curtains twitch, suspicions are raised, but Mette is never found.

Almost 25 years later, as the expiry date for the statute of limitations draws near, Mette’s mother approaches PI Varg Veum, in a last, desperate attempt to find out what happened to her daughter. As Veum starts to dig, he uncovers an intricate web of secrets, lies and shocking events that have been methodically concealed. When another brutal incident takes place, a pattern begins to emerge…

Chilling, shocking and full of extraordinary twists and turns, Where Roses Never Die reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.

Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Googleplay | Apple Books

My Thoughts

Well this book is an emotional rollercoaster. We join Varg Veum three years after the events of We Shall Inherit The Wind and it is fair to say that life has not been kind to our favourite Private Investigator. Marred by guilt over what happened to Karin, he is a mess, addicted to drink and struggling emotionally. When he is approached by Maja Misvær to search for her daughter, Mette, who vanished without trace some twenty five years earlier, it is like a lifeline to the man who is sinking further into a depression. The case is quite simple – a young child who one moment was playing happily in a sandpit at the front of her home, and the next is gone, never to be seen again. The police had their suspects, but never enough evidence to convict, leaving a family devastated and leading Veum to a community with more than its share of secrets.

For this is a Varg Veum case and, as you would expect, nothing is ever as simple as it seems. That is half the beauty of this series of books, the way in which Gunnar Staalesen takes the seemingly straightforward and twists it into a story full of emotion, turmoil, secrets and lies. And boy do the secrets come tumbling out as he investigates this case. What happens behind the closed doors of suburbia made for some very interesting reading – it was a very different time back in the late seventies. Or maybe, not. quite as different as the characters Veum runs into would like folk to think. What happened, what Veum uncovers is quite … surprising, leaving more than one family to face up to a very different kind of future and leading Veum into a case that will see him come face to face with some very brutish thugs.

This is such a complex story and yet also deceptively simple. The opening is quite a jolt to the system and, at first, it is hard to see how it links into the rest of the story. But link it does and Gunnar Staalesen once again works his magic to hide the truth in plain sight, and yet completely blind side readers. There are moments of great tension, scenes in which the jeopardy that Veum finds himself in will have you on the edge of your seat. Also some scenes that will make your toes curl they are so close to the brink of decency. I found myself shocked and outraged in equal measure in a story where the only real victims are the children, who find themselves falling into a game that their parents, the so called responsible adults in this tale, should have known better than to play. Especially, but not only, poor Mette. I found myself wanting Veum to find out what happened to her, but was not prepared for what he was going to uncover.

This is a story in which it was hard to envisage a happy ending, and whilst it did reach a conclusion of sorts, Maja did get her closure and her justice for Mette, it wasn’t the ending she thought it might be. Once again the author plays with our emotions, lets us see the hidden darkness in the heart of the story, the lengths to which people will go to when pushed, either to protect family, or to take what they want. The consequences of deception. As always, the description of setting is perfect, so vivid that you are plunged back into the centre of the story, feeling the tension, developing the loathing for all of those who let Mette down. Finding yourself developing a kind of sympathy for characters who would not ordinarily garner such emotion. That is the beauty of Gunnar Staalesen’s writing – the ability to elicit such feeling in a reader that it serves to keep you complete invested in the story and the characters right to the bitter end.

And I admit it – I do love Varg Veum as a character. The more I read of him, the more I want to read. He is such a principled character, has such deep rooted feelings, that you want to see him come good. I become one hundred percent absorbed in his story, in his investigation, that I don’t want to put the books down. I listened to the audio book this time around whilst one my daily walks but by the final quarter of the book I switched to the physical book as I was not longer. willing to wait to find out what happened. It was one of those kinds of reads. I’m a definite Varg Veum junkie and can;t wait to continue on this journey with him. And it’s kind of nostalgic too. Not that I know anything about Norway in the early nineties and noughties, but I’m learning and living every minute of it. Highly recommended.

About the Author

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, 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-three titles, which have been published in twenty-six countries and sold over five million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim, and a further series is currently being filmed. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour) and the Petrona Award, and been shortlisted for the CWA Dagger, lives in Bergen with his wife.

Books by Gunnar Staalesen

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