Little Drummer by Kjell Ola Dahl, trans by Don Bartlett

Today Im am delighted to join the blog tour for Little Drummer by Kjell Ola Dahl, translated by Don Bartlett. I love the Frølich and Gunnarstranda series and this was another absolute delight. My thanks to publisher Orenda Books for furnishing me with an advance copy for review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invite. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Advance Reader Copy
Release Date: 12 May 2022
Publisher: Orenda Books

About the Book

Godfather of Nordic Noir Kjell Ola Dahl returns with tense, sophisticated, searingly relevant international thriller that explodes the Nordic Noir genre, as Frølich and Gunnarstranda travel the globe to investigate exploitation and corruption in the distribution of foreign aid and essential HIV medications.

When a woman is found dead in her car in a Norwegian parking garage, everyone suspects an overdose … until a forensics report indicates that she was murdered. Oslo Detectives Frølich and Gunnarstranda discover that the victim’s Kenyan scientist boyfriend has disappeared, and their investigations soon lead them into the shady world of international pharmaceutical deals.

While Gunnarstranda closes in on the killers in Norway, Frølich and Lise, his new journalist ally, travel to Africa, where they make a series of shocking discoveries about exploitation and corruption in the distribution of foreign aid and essential HIV medications.

When tragedy unexpectedly strikes, all three investigators face incalculable danger, spanning two continents. And not everyone will make it out alive…

Exploding the confines of the Nordic Noir genre, Little Drummer is a sophisticated, fast-paced, international thriller with a searingly relevant, shocking premise that will keep you glued to the page.

My Thoughts

I really do love this series. Gunnarstranda and Frølich are two brilliant characters and Kjell Ola Dahl can always be relied upon to bring us an investigation that is packed with uncertainty, devious and unsavoury characters and enough intrigue to keep us guessing to the end. This time around they are faced with another murder investigation, but one which spans two continents, seeing Frølich being dispatched to Kenya in a bid to track down a man who may hold the answer to the whole case.

This is a really complex tale, a mix of murder, misdirection, missing persons and fraud. From the very beginning you get a sense of there being far more to the story than the simple murder of a young woman and the disappearance of a man who may, or may not, be her boyfriend. The tension builds from the off and despite a seemingly relaxed setting, two people enjoying the beach and each other, you know that in reality there is some kind of trouble lurking in the shadows, waiting to make its presence felt. Not too long to wait for that, or for us to be introduced to a character who will come to play a significant part in what comes to pass, and in Frølich’s involvement in the case too. Lise Fagernes is a reporter who makes an unexpected discovery, one which cements her interest in the case and sees her on the same flight path as Frølich. Quite literally in this case>

I love the contrast between the characters of Frølich and Gunnarstranda. It is clear that Frølich has a lot of respect for his boss, and they make a brilliant investigative duo, complimenting each others strengths as well as weaknesses, but he’s not afraid to stand up to him when it is for his own good. After a sabbatical from the police, Frølich is back in the fold, but he retains a kind of melancholy informed by his recent relationships. Gunnarstranda is nursing his own worries, a recent health diagnosis playing on his mind, one he’s keen to ignore but which he can’t quite manage. It makes them both seem very human and relatable, but doesn’t detract from their natural ability to get to the crux of a problem. Seeing the insights into their personal lives and thoughts really helps cement them as a team I trust and want to spend time with.

The scenes that take place in Kenya are full of threat and tension, and the author manages to capture the essence of the location without drowning us in detail. Enough is said to establish character and the sense of who you can, or can’t trust, and to also to highlight the differences between the police in Norway and those in Kenya who are prone to shoot first and ask questions later, denying Frølich of a potentially vital witness. It also adds jeopardy to the story, placing both Frølich and journalise Lise, at great risk, kicking the pace of the investigation up a notch and dropping vital information which will lead our intrepid duo to a dramatic showdown with the killer.

Another strong, enthralling instalment in a series I have really come to love. Perfect translation by Don Bartlett once again makes the story flow perfectly, keeping me hooked to the page from start to finish. I do love the author’s standalone novels, but there is something comforting about coming back to the worlds of Gunnarstranda and Frølich and, as much trouble as they may get themselves into, Frølich especially, I can’t wait to see them again.

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 twelve novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers (The Oslo Detectives series) featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he also won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. The Courier was longlisted for the CWA International Dagger and was a number-one bestseller in ebook. His work has been published in fourteen countries, and he lives in the Norwegian countryside.

About the Translator

Don Bartlett lives with his family in a village in Norfolk. He 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 Karl Ove Knausgaard. He has previously translated The Consort of DeathCold HeartWe Shall Inherit the WindWhere Roses Never Die and Wolves in the Dark in the Varg Veum series.

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