Little Drummer by Kjell Ola Dahl and Don Bartlett (translator)
|Little Drummer by Kjell Ola Dahl and Don Bartlett (translator)|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: A twisting plot travelling from Norway to Africa and back again that is mostly procedural but tips into thriller towards the end.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 305||Date: May 2022|
|Publisher: Orenda Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Part of the Oslo Detectives series, this crime story is a mixture of police procedural and thriller. Beginning with the death of a young woman in a carpark, that looks very much like an overdose, it unravels into a far-reaching investigation of murder, fraud, and international pharmaceutical dealings. Our two detectives are Gunnarstranda and Frolich, who end up working separately on the case as Gunnarstranda remains in Norway whilst Frolich is led to Africa as they follow the twists and turns of the investigation. Gunnarstranda and Frolich are tenacious, chasing down the truth in increasingly difficult, frustrating circumstances, trying hard to uncover the truth as they are sure that something much bigger, and much more dangerous, is going on.
Whilst there are many detective series that you can launch into part way without too much difficulty, I feel that this one would have been better if I'd had some fore-knowledge of the two detectives. I struggled, to be honest, to find anything to like about either of them. It wasn't clear exactly who they were, or how their relationship worked, or even whether I should like them or not. I didn't like them much, it turned out, though I warmed a little bit more to Gunnarstranda by the end. So if you're new to the Oslo Detectives too, I think you might want to try to start at the beginning first, so you have a bit more of an idea who everyone is. Gunnarstranda is one of those doesn't-look-after-himself detectives, and he's feeling really pretty ill at the start, and has been threatened by his doctor that he has to give up smoking otherwise she's not going to help him anymore. I was intrigued by his relationship with his doctor. I'd hoped she might be in the story a bit more later on but anyway, it's often the way that our detective heroes have some sort of flaw or injury weighing on them, and I liked seeing Gunnarstranda trying to take it one cigarette at a time. He kicks off the investigation, since the overdose case lands on his desk as a sort of punishment and in retaliation he goes over the top in checking out what happened, thereby uncovering the murder that's been made to look accidental. I would have liked to know more about the undercurrents within his team that led to this, so again, another reason to start at the beginning of the series.
I did struggle with the writing, and I wasn't sure if it was the way it was translated or just the author's style. I came to think by the end that it must be the author! It's very bare-bones, and very masculine writing. I know Nordic Noir is often stylistically brusque, but still I cringed at times, reading the way women were portrayed or described. Perhaps this is partially intentional, with regards to setting up the characters of Gunnarstranda and Frolich, but it grated with me, and for most of the book I just couldn't grasp what I was supposed to think of the character of Lise, Frolich's journalist ally in the story. I didn’t believe in her as a female character, nor most of the other women who flit in and out of the story. I think this is just one of those series that doesn't work for me, so don’t let me put you off trying it if you really love Nordic Noir! The plot was intriguing, and having the settings of both Norway and Africa works well in the story. If you enjoy your books in this sort of style, then do give it a go!
For another Nordic Noir you might enjoy reading Unhinged (Volume 3) (Blix and Ramm) by Jorn Lier Horst and Thomas Enger
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