Varg Veum receives a surprise visit in his office. A woman introduces herself as his half-sister, and she has a job for him. Her god-daughter, a 19-year-old trainee nurse from Haugesund, moved from her bedsit in Bergen two weeks ago. Since then no one has heard anything from her. She didn’t leave an address. She doesn’t answer her phone. And the police refuse to take her case seriously.
Veum’s investigation uncovers a series of carefully covered-up crimes and pent-up hatreds, and the trail leads to a gang of extreme bikers on the hunt for a group of people whose dark deeds are hidden by the anonymity of the Internet. And then things get personal…
Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Big Sister reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.
Translated into English by Don Bartlett.
Big Sister was published by Orenda Books on the 30th April 2018. Many thanks to the publisher for having me on this blog tour and for my copy of the book for review.
Big Sister is part of the Varg Veum series which first started back in 1977, this is the fourth book to be translated into English and published by Orenda Books. Despite the long running series, Big Sister reads very well as a standalone therefore no prior knowledge is needed. I suspect that if you have read the books in order then there is a higher level of understanding associated with each read however it doesn’t impact new readers. I absolutely loved Wolves in the Dark so was very excited to read Big Sister!
Gunnar Staalesen has created a brilliant and likeable character in Private Investigator, Varg who is in his early sixties (I love the fact that he is an older gentleman and has aged with the series rather than remained around the same age (I’m looking at you Mr Bond!) In Big Sister we are introduced to Varg’s half sister who he has been estranged from his whole life and didn’t even know of her existence until their mother died. Norma’s goddaughter, Emma, has gone missing – seemingly disappeared without a trace. Emma’s disappearance has been reported to the police however they don’t seem too concerned so Norma gets in touch with Varg to help find some answers. When Varg agrees to take on the case, he doesn’t realise what secrets it is going to unearth and the situations it will get him into! It was interesting to see Varg building up a relationship with Norma whilst trying to find Emma.
What starts of as a standard missing person case is nothing but at the end and Staalesen beautifully weaves a complex story line which keeps the reader engrossed from start to end. He deals with some difficult subjects throughout the book which takes the reader to some dark places whilst exploring family relationships, both good and bad.
Big Sister is a brilliant example of Nordic Noir, full of dark secrets and chilling characters. I love the way in which Staalesen writes his books both in terms of his prose and short chapters which is just asking for ‘just one more chapter’ when you are trying to put the book down!
Once again, Don Bartlett has done a sterling job with the translation because other that the names and locations, it is impossible to tell that this book wasn’t originally written in English.
I thoroughly enjoyed Big Sister and I didn’t want it to end – another brilliant read (and translation).
Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway in 1947. He made his debut at the age of 22 with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over 20 titles, which have been published in 24 countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour), lives in Bergen with his wife. When Prince Charles visited Bergen, Staalesen was appointed his official tour guide. There is a life-sized statue of Varg Veum in the centre of Bergen, and a host of Varg Veum memorabilia for sale. Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award.