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Where Roses Never Die by Gunnar Staalesen

Where Roses Never Die

by Gunnar Staalesen

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From the start of this story I could not get away from the feeling that I have read other novels where other authors have deal with this scenario: little girl goes missing from outside the house where she is playing while mother is keeping half an eye on her.

The cold case that Varg Veum tackles revealed little about the child's disappearance during the original investigation, apart from the fact that the investigators felt there was something about the community that they weren't quite getting. The residents knew more than they were prepared to say and there was something "funny" about the cooperative community housing project. Now 25 years on, Veum finds that most of the couples are divorced and in the main they are more willing to talk. There are things they want to unburden.

Coincidentally one of the former residents was recently an innocent passerby during a jewellery robbery in town. He was shot dead by one of the robbers during an altercation on the footpath outside the store. This coincidence ensures police cooperation with Varg Veum.

This turns out to be only the first in a number of coincidences in the plot and a very different picture emerges of what happened to Mette. Varg Veum is middle-aged, a former policeman, a persistent and intuitive investigator who is not afraid to ask questions and to call in favours. He has a troubled past and an alcohol problem, but appears to be getting the better of it.

Gunnar Staaleson has been a prolific Norwegian crime writer since 1993, with mostly only novels written in the last decade available in English. It appears that there are 18 in the series in Norwegian, 7 translated into English. This is the first one that I've read but it certainly won't be the last. Four are currently available on Kindle. ( )
  smik | Jun 26, 2017 |
I occasionally wonder if authors of long-running series anticipate new readers with every book or assume that at some point they are writing for existing fans only. I wonder this because as a reader I am generally reluctant to break into a series that has hit double-digits long before I have read a single volume. There is, after all, just so much I can never know unless I go back to the beginning. But, being determined to read the shortlist for this year’s Petrona Award, I decided to have a go at the 19th book featuring Norwegian private investigator Varg Veum even though I’ve not read any of its predecessors.

I did not immediately warm to the book’s central character and it’s because I suspect that was due to me never having ‘met’ him before that I was once again pondering the curly issue of the different kinds of readers authors have to consider. As a pretty dedicated fan of the genre I have come across many alcoholic misanthropes in the guise of detectives so was both jaded and resigned when encountering yet another one. There was enough back story provided here for me to glean the man was grieving the death of a girlfriend/wife several years ago but not quite enough to make me terribly interested in his aquavit-inspired stupors. And Staalesen’s models for his character are closer to the American, hard-boiled detective than my favourite fictional sleuths ever are. That said, by the end of the novel Veum’s determination and humour did earn my grudging admiration if not my undying love.

Everything else about the book was terrific, particularly the story. Veum is asked by Maja Misvær to investigate the disappearance of her 3 year old daughter Mette. The child disappeared while playing in front of the suburban family home on a seemingly ordinary day in 1977. Nearly 25 years later the statute of limitations on the crime is all but expired but Maja Misvær is actually prompted to contact Veum when she hears that one of the men who was a neighbour at the time of her daughter’s disappearance was killed by jewellery store robbers fleeing the scene of their own crime. Soon, she worries, anyone who knows anything will be gone and she may have forever lost the chance to learn what happened to her daughter. This kind of cold case is always intriguing – there are probably few readers who don’t know of some local missing persons case that has gone unsolved – and Staalesen does a great job of peeling away the layers of secrecy that might easily build up in any group of people and result in an impossible to predict disaster.

The Misvær family home is part of a small co-op, built by a well-known architect in the mid-70’s and this device provides both the suspect pool for the disappearance as well as offering an interesting way to comment on Norwegian society during this time period. In what seems like a series of utterly futile visits to each of the families who lived in the co-op when Mette disappeared (some are still there, some have moved away) Veum painstakingly teases out snippets that show what was being displayed to the world was not the whole truth about everyone’s lives. I think if I’d read a lot of this kind of thing when I was younger I might have scoffed at the lunacy being expected to believe people would hid such things even in the face of such obvious need to reveal the whole truth but that would have been due to my own youthful ignorance. I’m a little wiser now and I know that people keep all kinds of secrets for all kinds of reasons and I found this aspect of the book tantalisingly realistic. I also found myself wanting to stick up for our hero even though he wasn’t destined to be one of my all-time favourite sleuths. He solves two major crimes during the course of the novel and on both occasions police were very dismissive of his efforts and claim he stumbled across the solutions. Maybe so but an entire police force didn’t seem capable of solving either crime.

I even got a surprise with the resolution of WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE which topped off a great reading experience for me. So I feel I must offer thanks to all of those who played a key role in providing this for me which in addition to Gunnar Staalesen includes the excellent translator Don Bartlett and English actor Colin Mace who was the terrific narrator of the audio version I listened to. ( )
  bsquaredinoz | May 14, 2017 |
If you had asked me this time last year if I was a fan of Scandinavian crime fiction or Nordic noir then I would have responded with a "hell no!", even though I really liked TV shows such as The Killing and Wallender. But I’ve read a number of books in this genre over recent months, and I’m hooked.

This book unravels its secrets steadily and carefully-it's like unwrapping a beautiful box of chocolates where each one is individually packaged and you have no idea what it is until it slowly melts in your mouth.
Gunnar Staalesen sends us into the lives of a smallish community. They live in a sort of shared housing co-op, with all of the houses facing each other. Very 1970s hippy! Their lives are very intertwined, as they socialise together. There are many secrets and lies. They were all not honest with the police back in the 1970s. It is no surprise, that the police got nowhere with the case. A missing child, a potential murder case, is the stuff of nightmares. We get a strong sense of the brutal and long term psychological impact of events, including the loss of the girl. Staaleson never lets us forget the effect on the mother, the way time has frozen for her.
At the beginning of the novel, pessimism reigns. No one thinks private investigator Varg Veum can get to the truth; but he is determined to solve the mystery of the missing child. We slowly see him drawing conclusions and making sense of various odd behaviours. Seemingly unrelated incidents over the years all come together leading towards a fast-paced dramatic ending which still had me guessing what had gone on and who had been involved right up until the reveal.
I’ve since learnt that this series began 40 years ago. This novel stood well on its own – but I am intrigued to learn more about Varg, so I’ve just ordered all the previous books. ( )
  Jawin | Mar 19, 2017 |
Varg Veum is back with a cold case that has strange ties to the present. It’s been almost 25 years since 3 year old Mette Misvaer went missing from her yard. With the statute of limitations looming, her mother Maja asks Veum to take one final crack at finding the truth.

It would be a welcome paycheque but before he signs on, Veum will need to make a few changes to his lifestyle. In the 3 years since his partner died, his only relationship has been with a bottle. If he can put the Aquavit back on the shelf, he might find some answers & perhaps a little self respect along the way.

The book opens with an armed robbery of a jewelry store In Bergen. As the masked thieves flee the scene, a pedestrian is fatally shot. Police are unable to find or identify the culprits & the case is soon sliding toward the unsolved stack.

What’s the connection? Well, you’ll have to sit yourself down & ride shotgun with Veum to find out how this one thread is elegantly woven into the main story. It’s not easy tracking down those who were part of Mette’s world. Some have moved on, same have died, some have secrets they’ll do anything to protect. But Veum is a persistent guy & his relentless questions soon unveil more mysteries than he bargained for.

Staalesen excels at telling stories that are intricate & plausible. There are no bolts from the blue or hastily constructed endings. Every piece of the puzzle is uncovered through persistent digging & there’s almost an audible click as each slides into place on the way to a satisfying end. Violence is kept to a minimum as he chooses to employ Veum’s brains rather than brawn to find answers.

It’s a refreshing take on the P.I. genre & more believable given he’s now a man of “a certain age”. He’s not exactly the poster child for healthy living & doesn’t bounce back quite as easily. Instead, he relies on quick thinking & a well placed verbal jab when trouble comes knocking. Veum is a complex, fully developed character who may seem to fit the hardboiled stereotype at first glance. But as you spend time with him, it’s his introspection & compassion that will stay with you. He’s not a bad person, just a lost soul doing the best he can.

It’s a gritty & poignant story that flows at a steady pace until the jaw-droppers begin at the 3/4 mark. You’ll find yourself thinking about the nature of secrets, how they never really go away but just hibernate. And the longer they are hidden, the more powerful they become. It’s also a cautionary example of how easily we judge based on someone’s appearance or reputation.

If you get to a place where you’re putting out book #18, you’re doing something right. Probably several things, as is the case with this author. His Bergen based PI has become a benchmark in the genre who fans have been following for 40 years & this is a clever, absorbing addition to the series.

And hey, if you’re ever in Bergen, stop by & have your picture taken with Veum’s statue outside the Strand hotel near the fish market. He’s a looker. ( )
  RowingRabbit | Feb 15, 2017 |
Where Roses Never Die – Another Nordic Masterpiece

Gunnar Staalesen’s storytelling never fails to grip the reader and with his Private Investigator Varg Veum we have the ultimate defective detective. Staalesen’s stories and setting never fail to impress and his descriptive prose is crisp and clear like the air over the Fjords.

The story is set in 2002 when he is asked to investigate a case that is nearly 25 years old and not far from reaching Norway’s statute of limitations for any charges to be brought forward if the case is ever solved. In September 1977, Mette Misvaer a three-year-old girl goes missing from the sandpit outside the front door of her house. In spite of a massive police investigation and all the resources being thrown at the case Mette is never found.

Varg Veum has never got over the killing of his lover and is living in an alcoholic haze the aquavit being his poison of choice, but as a seasoned drinker he is still functioning, just. When he is asked by Mette’s mother to help find out the truth behind what happened nearly 25 years ago.

Varg is many things, and dogged is one of them, especially when he approaches the police and the former investigators he knows the last thing he will get is any love. At the same time, he looks in to a jewellery robbery in town where one of the witnesses was murdered in cold blood. Once again the case is heading for the cold case pile.

As Varg investigates, and fights his demons, he knows he will have to scrape off the veneer of respectability in one last attempt to find the truth. What he finds is an intricate web of lies and destruction leading to some shocking events that have been concealed over the years. Things start to fall in to place for Varg when a brutal incident happens and he is able to see things far more clearly.

Gunnar Staalesen has once again written a classic Nordic crime thriller, with Varg Veum he has a brilliant defective detective, who is a seasoned drinker that somehow always solves the case, even if there is some pain involved. Staalesen does not waste words but creates a sharp thriller, that if it were a dog it would bite. This is one of the most captivating thrillers of the year and written in the best Nordic traditions.

Once again Gunnar Staalesen Don Bartlett have delivered a stunning thriller in to the English language and it is easy to see why Staalesen is a world class writer. ( )
  atticusfinch1048 | Jun 9, 2016 |
Showing 5 of 5
Staalesen og Veum rir igjen
I Bergen befinner seg så vel Gunnar Staalesen som hans aldrende helt Varg Veum; mannen med forkjærligheten for akevitt, privatdetektiven som har fulgt oss trofast siden «Bukken til havresekken» fra 1977. Med «Der hvor roser aldri dør» er Veum tilbake - på sitt beste
added by annek49 | editNRK, Leif Ekle (Aug 28, 2012)
Veum i klassikerform.Elegant bruk av krimsjangerens forventning om et mord
«Der hvor roser aldri dør» kombinerer krimelementer med mer allmenngyldige temaer som kjærlighet, sorg, begjær. Noe av det som gjør Staalesen til en utmerket forfatter, er at han åpner for at det finnes noe menneskelig ved selv den ynkeligste karakter. «Der hvor roser aldri dør» er klassisk krim som holder leseren i ånde fra første til siste kapittel
Varg Veum fascinerer fortsatt
Ny, klassisk Veum-krim fra Gunnar Staalesen.
added by annek49 | editDagbladet, Torbjørn Ekelund (Aug 11, 2012)
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