Published August, 2016 by Orenda Books
September 1977. Mette Misvær, a three-year-old girl, disappears without trace from the sandpit outside her home. Her tiny, close middle-class community in the tranquil suburb of Nordas is devastated, but their enquiries and the police produce nothing. Curtains twitch, suspicions are raised, but Mette is never found. Almost 25 years later, as the expiration date for the statute of limitations draws near, Mette’s mother approaches PI Varg Veum, in a last, desperate attempt to find out what happened to her daughter. As Veum starts to dig, he uncovers an intricate web of secrets, lies and shocking events that have been methodically concealed. When another brutal incident takes place, a pattern begins to emerge. Chilling, shocking and full of extraordinary twists and turns, Where Roses Never Die reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost crime thriller writers.
While the missing child storyline is nothing new, this one drew my attention for several reasons. One, it’s an Orenda book and I have yet to read a book that Karen Sullivan has published that I haven’t really enjoyed; two, the fact that this missing child case has been unsolved for 25 years and the statute of limitations is almost up made it feel more intense, like the clock really is ticking to find out and bring someone to justice; three, I’ve recently discovered I love Scandinavian crime novels for the dark, somewhat gloomy settings as well as the often dark, gloomy characters involved.
Put all that together with the beginning pages of the story and I was hooked. The book begins with the armed robbery of a jewelry store gone wrong when a passerby literally runs into the robbers and gets shot and killed. When said robbers basically vanish into thin air it’s intriguing to say the least. The question will soon become, how, if at all does this seemingly random robbery tie in with a 25 year old missing child case?
From here we meet PI Varg Veum who’s losing the battle with himself over continually draining his liquor (Aquavit) bottle while on the job. There’s something tragic about Varg that made me really like him right off the bat. When the mother of Mette Misvoer, the little 3 year old girl who vanished from her front yard 25 years ago while playing in her sandbox pays Varg a visit you could feel his compassion coming through the pages and I immediately realized I was rooting for Varg to not only find the little girl but to save himself from the brink of what seemed like his own personal despair.
What follows is a story told in the style of traditional crime novels. By that I mean there’s no fancy detective tricks, no unreliable narrator, no high speed car chases or shoot’em up filler scenes…this is a guy battling his own personal demons who employs old fashioned detective work to find the missing Mette. With his amusing verbal sparring with suspects, I really found Varg to be a realistic and plausible character. As for the pace of the novel, it’s slow and steady (not in a bad way just in a methodical one) until about the last quarter when the puzzle pieces begin to fall and click into place and I was racing to the end to find out every last detail. Can I just say…I didn’t see that ending coming! I had my theories but they always remained kind of fuzzy, I just couldn’t figure it all out which is exactly how I like to feel when reading a mystery.
I do have to say that many of you may look this up on Goodreads or Amazon and see that this is Book 18 in the series. FEAR NOT friends because this can be read as a standalone and really the only thing I wanted more answers to involved what happened to Varg’s love Karen which is what has led him to drown himself in Aquavit. So, with that said, I’ll be going back and reading Book 17, We Shall Inherit The Wind. I’ll also be eagerly awaiting Book 19, Wolves in the Dark, which will be published by Orenda this June!
Many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my copy. I’m happy to provide an honest review