Fallen Angels by Gunnar Staalesen

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Fallen Angels by Gunnar Staalesen

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 2/5
Reviewer: Megan Kenny
Reviewed by Megan Kenny
Summary: Fallen Angels is a slow paced thriller by numbers drawing on the age old tropes of vivid descriptions of female anatomy and also a bit of murder.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 276 Date: November 2020
Publisher: Orenda
ISBN: 978-1913193065

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Varg Veum, lone wolf detective, is back. After attending a former friend's funeral, Veum catches up with old friends but soon historic grievances and wounds are opened and the sins of the past are exposed to the light of the present. A horrific murder threatens these tenuous bonds and Veum is thrust into an investigation to root out the clues hidden in his own history to catch a killer.

To be blunt, I was very disappointed by this book. I have read the blurb and seen the comments that hold up Staalesen as the godfather of Nordic Noir. I am a lover of both the Nordic and the noir and so had high expectations. These were quickly dashed.

The glaring issue with Staalesen's writing is that it appears he thinks women don't read his books. Quite frankly, I'm not sure who the target audience is. I was approximately a quarter of the way through the book and I still had no idea what was going on but I had endured at least four separate descriptions of women's breasts. Milk maid breasts, small breasts, pendulous breasts, they are all here in vivid detail. Quite how this advances the plot to a grisly murder, I cannot say, but I can say that it read as a mundane masturbatory fantasy of middle age. This is apt as Veum and his friends have slowly slid into mid life, all paunches and thinning hair. In this regard Staalesen crafts a strong narrative for them. Unfortunately the women in Fallen Angels are not given the same treatment.

If I sound aggrieved it is because I am. I have a deep loathing for this kind of crime fiction, that uses and abuses women's bodies without giving any depth or character development. There is lurid abuse in spades in this book, but it lacks the empathy or heart to make the reader feel engaged. It is a real shame, given the well reported prevalence of women as readers of crime fiction. I am not a prude, nor am I anti sexuality in fiction. But when this is purely objectification through the eyes of men old enough to know better it quickly becomes tedious and this book was a slog to get through.

On the positive side, Fallen Angels follows a tried and true formula, and Staalesen is (as evidenced by the varied descriptions of the female form) a writer who evocatively sets the scene. The revelation of the killer is interesting, however mired in continued pointless description of heart shaped bottoms. Again, why this is something you'd be focused on when confronted with a serial killer is anybody's guess. This makes Veum seem like a creepy pervert, lusting after women young enough to be his daughter, rather than a flawed, yet relatable anti-hero.

Staalesen has been cited as the Nordic Raymond Chandler, Veum as an "upmarket Philip Marlowe". I can't agree. Whatever the flaws of the noirs of the past, they are at least viewed in their social and historical context. Staalesen continues the negative aspects of these noir tropes and does nothing to advance beyond the prosaic.

For a mystery with a snowy heart and a strong female presence, I would suggest The Millenium Trilogy, starting with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson and Reg Keeland (translator).

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Buy Fallen Angels by Gunnar Staalesen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fallen Angels by Gunnar Staalesen at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.

Buy Fallen Angels by Gunnar Staalesen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fallen Angels by Gunnar Staalesen at Amazon.com.

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