Today I am delighted to share my thoughts on The Lazarus Solution, the brand new historical novel from Kjell Ola Dahl. I love the author’s writing and his historical novels are full of rich, historical detail and intrigue. My thanks to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books for the advance copy and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invite. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
Summer, 1943. When a courier for Sweden’s Press and Military Office is killed on his final mission, the Norwegian government-in-exile appoints a writer to find the missing documents … breathtaking WW2 thriller.
Daniel Berkåk works as a courier for the Press and Military Office in Stockholm. On his last cross-border mission to Norway, he carries a rucksack full of coded documents and newspapers, but before he has a chance to deliver anything he is shot and killed and the contents of his rucksack are missing.
The Norwegian government, currently exiled in London, wants to know what happened, and the job goes to writer Jomar Kraby,whose first suspect is a Norwegian refugee living in Sweden, whose past that is as horrifying as the events still to come…
Both classic crime and a stunning expose of Norwegian agents in Stockholm during the Second World War, The Lazarus Solution is a compulsive, complex, richly authentic historical thriller from one of the godfathers of Nordic Noir.
I’ve never hidden how much I love Kjell Ola Dahl’s Frølich and Gunnarstranda series, and although I don’t typically read a lot of historical fiction, if there is one person I will make an exception for, it is him. The Lazarus Solution is the third standalone historical novel published by Orenda Books, and from the very beginning I was completely drawn into the story, a beautiful blend of mystery and tension, all wrapped in authenticity and compelling characterisations. If you like fiction set around the time of WWII, and want to read something which takes a look at the war from a very fresh angle, then I would definitely recommend this book.
In The Lazarus Solution, Kjell Ola Dahl transports us to 1940’s Scandinavia, to Sweden and Norway, geographical neighbours who may as well be lightyears apart when it comes to their position in the war. Norway is Nazi occupied, Sweden retains a neutral status, finding itself home to may Norwegian exiles who have fled their homeland for a variety of reasons. It is one such person, writer Jomar Kraby, who is engaged by the exiled Norwegian Government to find out who murdered one of their agents on his ill fated final trip into Norway. Jomar’s is an investigation beset with issues and challenges, and not everyone is keen for the murderer to be exposed. With suspicion falling upon another Norwegian expat, Kai Fredly, as readers we are soon drawn into a story of family, politics, revenge and betrayal as the two man follow their own paths to try and find out the truth.
Two of the real things which always draw me into one of Kjell Ola Dahl’s books are setting and character. When it comes to character, this time around the author has created a beautiful cast of diverse characters, each driven by their own motivations, be they personal or political, matters of the heart or pure greed and a thirst for power. Each one was unique, memorable in their own way, from the main protagonists, Jomar and Kai, to those who existed more on the periphery, such as victim Daniel Berkåk, or even the security guard at the offices of the Norway Legation building, Borgar Stridsberg. Slowly but surely their stories are revealed, adding new conflict and complexity to the story, and exposing some of the motivations that may be behind the heinous actions Jomar is trying to investigate.
Amongst all of the people we meet throughout the novel, it is Jomar and Kai who really hold the attention in this book, the story moving between their two perspectives and following the pattern of hunter and prey. I liked them both in their own individual ways. Both are flawed, less than perfect, both damaged in a way by the circumstances of war. I loved Jomar’s dogged determination, and Kai’s defiance. For Jomar, this is just a job, one that, despite an initial reluctance to engage in, he has become intrigued by. For Kai, the investigation is personal, but in spite of the suspicion surrounding him, I found myself sympathising with him and his circumstances.
As for setting, there is no denying the authors ability to transport me as a reader right into the heart of the action. I can’t lie, I knew little of Norway and Sweden’s place in the war prior to reading the book, but it is instilled with enough information to give readers a real sense of the time without overloading the story with historical fact. the book portrays the complexity of the political landscape, the dangers inherent at the time, even in a neutral state like Sweden. There is a feeling of tension, low and rumbling as it is, that underpins the whole story, and scenes where Jomar travels back to Norway, at great personal risk, really keep the tension and the pacing high and serve to illustrate the danger that threads throughout the book. And then that ending … leading towards the ultimate in jeopardy in order to expose the full truth of what has come before. A very fitting ending.
This is a story full of secrets and misdirection. So much subterfuge, from the author every bit as much as his characters, that is kept the suspense high and my attention glued to the story. It is not an all action war story, and if you have come searching for that you’re in the wrong place. This is a complex, rich and layered story, one that speaks of the Norwegian resistance effort, of agents who serve to undermine the Nazi propaganda in their homeland. It is also a story of family, of love and of the ties that bind. If you loved The Courier and The Assistant then this is most certainly recommended.
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 Death, Cold Heart, We Shall Inherit the Wind, Where Roses Never Die and Wolves in the Dark in the Varg Veum series.
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You are welcome. Loved this
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