The Fourth Man by Kjell Ola Dahl trns by Don Bartlett

This year I decided to make it the year of my series catch up and what better way to start than with the Oslo Detectives series by Kjell Ola Dahl? I have been loving reading the book published by Orenda, and there are four others translated into English that I have been keen to go back to. They are published in a slightly different order in English than they were in their native Norwegian, so this is the order I am going to read in, starting with The Fourth Man. It also ties in quite nicely with our Year of Orenda 2.0 as it gets me all nice and set for a brand new Oslo Detectives novel later this year.

Source: Amazon

About the Book

In the course of a routine police raid Detective Inspector Frank Frølich of the Oslo Police saves Elizabeth Faremo from getting inadvertently caught in crossfire. By the time he learns that she is the sister of Jonny Faremo, wanted member of a larceny gang, it is already too late – he is obsessed. Suspected, suspended and blindly in love, Frølich must find out if he is being used before his life unravels beyond repair.

My Thoughts

It’s been an almost strange experience tracing Frølich and Gunnarstranda back to the earlier days of their working relationship. Strange in that I have seen, in the later books, how things progress for Frølich, and this is book serves almost as a precursor – an echo if you like – of what is to come. It certainly demonstrates that whilst Frølich may have a weakness for the female of the species, his relationships really do have a habit of causing him trouble. That is definitely the case after he becomes involved with Elizabeth Faremo, a woman whose brother is well known. to the Olso Police and who is set to cause him a headache of the romantic and professional kind.

We begin with a sting operation, a fateful one as it happens, as this is how Frølich meets Elizabeth. Whether her subsequent stalking behaviour is due to a kind of misplaced hero worship or something else remains to be seen, but it certainly brings a lot of colour, and plenty of danger, to Frølichs life. It would be easy to forget that this is a police series given that early parts of the book are given over to the establishment of the relationship between the pair and Frølich’s own growing obsession with Elizabeth. But not too far into the book we soon discover what could be the real reason for her attentions and everything for Frølich begins to go south.

I really enjoy the way in which the author sets the scene in this book, taking time to establish the backstory, allowing readers to engage with the characters before bringing in the real jeopardy and intrigue. From the very beginning I did wonder where the story was going to lead and the answer is to a very satisfying and perplexing case that throws up as many obstacles for the Police as it does answers. The tension slowly builds as does the mystery but the temp really suits the story and by the time Frølich begins to really uncover what is happening and just how much danger he was in, I was completely invested in him as a character, wanting to see him find a kind of justice.

This is not a fast paced novel but then it doesn’t need to be. It is about the characters as much as the case itself, and we are faced with a very varied and authentic bunch, from the police who lead the case – the misguided and perhaps too infatuated Frølich, to the slightly older and more jaded Gunnarstranda – through to the criminal fraternity to which Elizabeth’s life, and by extension, Frølich’s, is inextricably linked. You also get a keen sense of place be it in the city or out at the disused water treatment plant where the body of one of the several victims of this book is discovered. It is so easy to picture every scene, to feels the emotions of the characters, especially Frølich, as this really is his story.

There are many layers to this book which go beyond the complicated relationships between Frølich and the people he comes into contact with both personally and professionally and the author weaves these together brilliantly, keeping the mystery throughout and keeping the truth just out of reach until right moment, guiding us to a very suitable ending. This is a book about very complex relationships, of revenge, and of family. Looking forward to reading more from the series now.

About the Author

Kjell Ola Dahl was born in the city Gjovik, in Norway in 1958, but grew up in Oslo. Dahl was a teacher and social adviser in High school when he started to write the Oslo Detectives series. Two times Dahl has won the Riverton-prize, the Norwegian National prize for the best novel of crime fiction (in 2000 and in 2015). He won the prestigious Brage-prize for the Courier, a standalone novel of crime fiction set in Norway and Sweden during World War II and in 1967. The first book in the series of the Oslo Detectives – Lethal investments – was published in in Norway 1993.

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