cover image Big Sister

Big Sister

Gunnar Staalesen, trans. from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett. Orenda (IPG, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (276p) ISBN 978-1-912374-19-9

In Norwegian author Staalesen’s terrific 20th novel featuring Bergen PI Varg Veum (after 2017’s Wolves in the Dark), Veum—a divorced former child welfare officer, now over 60 but still fit—seeks missing 19-year-old university student Emma Hagland, one of “life’s lost souls.” The puzzling case is brought to Veum by Norma Bakkevik, his 76-year-old half-sister, whose existence he has hitherto largely ignored. Step by ominous step, Veum uncovers successively darker secrets about his parents, neither of whom he really knew, as he pursues his search for Emma. He encounters Emma’s absentee father and members of her father’s drug-dealing biker gang, who were responsible for a gang rape years earlier that plays a pivotal role in solving Emma’s disappearance. Meanwhile, religious fanatics have been using the internet as a weapon to drive depressed young people into suicide. Like Raymond Chandler, Staalesen creates intense emotion through dialogue and description, but his altogether Norwegian focus forces home a substantial social message: ignoring the past is inevitably tragic. Agent: Anne Cathrine Eng, Gyldendal Agency (Norway). (Sept.)