Tuesday, 7 April 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Sister - Kjell Ola Dahl


Title: Sister
Author: Kjell Ola Dahl
Publisher: Orenda Books


Author, Kjell Oka Dahl is considered one of the godfathers of Nordic Noir. His first novel was published in 1993 and he is best known for his series about Oslo detectives Frank Frølich and Inspector Gunnarstranda who feature in this novel.

‘Sister’ is a tense and well-plotted murder mystery with a poignant misfortune at its core. Described as a dark, chilling and up-to-the-minute Nordic Noir thriller it probably reinforces Dahl as one of the most popular Norwegian crime writers.

The protagonist in the story is Frank Frølich. After having resigned from the police force, Frølich has started working as a private investigator. After a chance meeting with Mathilde, the woman who quickly becomes a permanent feature in his life, he takes on the task of finding a friend of hers who works at a refugee centre and needs help finding an Iraqi girl whose younger sister lives at the centre. Although Frank takes on the assignment with reluctance, he immediately starts working on the case, eager to close it but shortly afterwards a well-known author, Fredrik Andersen turns up unexpectantly at his office and demands that he stop the search but will give no reasons. The author is found murdered the following morning at his home in Nordstrand, Oslo. Something which starts as a simple missing person case turns into a matter far more complex as a killer strikes and the story develops.

Frølich has therefore two mysteries to solve and he continues the search in two directions. Firstly, who is the mysterious sister of the girl and secondly why was Fredrik Andersen killed? Meanwhile, shadowy powers disrupt Frølich's effort and as the police shy away from the case, it becomes clear that the answers lie in an old investigation as the mystery develops and the sister goes on the run.

Having visited Norway on a few occasions, the most recent in January this year, and having stayed at some of the places mentioned in the story, for me it was an interesting read. Essentially because I was able to visualise and reminisce about the towns and places mentioned, along with the landscapes and so forth, but I‘m not sure this would be the case for readers unfamiliar with the country; I feel it could detract from the enjoyment of the story as some of the sections detail car journeys to and from various towns and places which would be meaningless to those unfamiliar with the geography of Norway.

The plot is fast-paced and the story is interspersed with interesting characters, having a griping amount of the necessary tension, suspense, twists and atmosphere a good thriller requires. I can most definitely appreciate why the author is considered one of the godfathers of Nordic Noir. He spins his tale effortlessly and keeps the reader guessing up until the very end. Additionally, the pacing of the novel is just right having hooked me into the story from the very first page.

Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik, Norway. He made his debut in 1993 having since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals/psychological thrillers featuring investigators Frølich and Gunnarstranda. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for ‘The Last Fix’ and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for ‘The Courier’ in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

Reviewer - Anne Pritchard

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