The Norwegian writer Kjell Ola Dahl deserves attention – as strong novels such as The Last Fix (2000) have amply demonstrated. That book was the third Dahl novel to be translated into English (he had written eleven), and had British and American readers wondering why he was then the least known of the ocean of Scandinavian writers washing over the crime scene. We met Dahl’s protagonists, Oslo detectives Frank Frølich and Inspector Gunnarstranda, in The Fourth Man and The Man in the Window (2005 and 2001, but published in English out of sequence), and it was clear that the duo were among the most memorable foreign coppers in a now-crowded field.
In Sister, Frølich has been suspended from duty and is working as a private investigator – a change of pace that makes this one of Dahl’s most energised and mesmeric novels. His girlfriend’s colleague seeks his help regarding a female asylum seeker, on the point of being deported. Fearing that she will be killed when she is returned home, she claims that she has a relative in Norway – but when the sister is tracked down by Frølich, he finds a problem: the Norway-dweller disputes the very existence of the relative who claims kinship. In the meantime, people have started to die.
Kjell Ola Dahl has always been skilful at character and setting, but the particular defining characteristic of Sister is the steadily accelerating pace, handled with a sure touch. And Frølich remains a rounded and intriguing character, particularly in this latest iteration.
Reviewed by Barry Forshaw
Written by Kjell Ola Dahl
Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett
Published by Orenda Books (2020)
Barry Forshaw’s books include Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide, the Keating Award-winning Brit Noir and Nordic Noir. Other work: Death in a Cold Climate, Sex and Film and the British Crime Writing encyclopedia (also a Keating Award winner). He edits Crime Time (www.crimetime.co.uk).
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