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Drømmenes land by Vidar Sundstøl
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Drømmenes land (original 2008; edition 2008)

by Vidar Sundstøl

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English (5)  Norwegian (3)  Dutch (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (10)
Showing 5 of 5
bookshelves: autumn-2013, mystery-thriller, norway, net-galley, published-2008, translation
Read from October 30 to 31, 2013


Uncorrected proof from University of Minnesota Press

From the description: The grandson of Norwegian immigrants, Lance Hansen is a U.S. Forest Service officer and has a nearly all-consuming passion for local genealogy and history. But his quiet routines are shattered one morning when he comes upon a Norwegian tourist brutally murdered near a stone cross on the shore of Lake Superior. Another Norwegian man is nearby; covered in blood and staring out across the lake, he can only utter the word kjærlighet. Love.

**phonetically that would be 'shareligt'.**

Opening: The lake glittered in the sunlight. Seemingly endless, far in the distance it merged with the sky.

This story is set just right for Norwegian migrant descendents based in Minnesota today. Ladies and Gentlemen, a recipe:

- Lake Superior scenery
- a feeling of the history of this land in north America, their settlement
- add in some ever popular Nordic crime
- and top it off with a dose of sentimental Old Country reflections

Should be good to go...

...except that is not quite the case here, it will read a little flopped-soufflé to connoisseurs; somewhat undercooked, even pasty in comparison to how this oeuvre has evolved - readers have been spoilt recently with some top-drawer material.

However, whilst Vidar Sundstøl does not possess the verve of Lars Saabye Christensen, Jan Kjærstad or Jo Nesbø this is a good enough story to curl up with in front of a crackling fire on a late autumn evening, especially if there is a glow from the moon sifting through the swirling fogs above the waters of a lake, and an inexplicable Swamper Caribou-esque flicker of the tea-light inside the carved pumkin.

Best line: How do you tell an extroverted Finn - he is looking at your shoes instead of his own. Boom Boom.

2.5* ( )
  mimal | Jan 1, 2014 |
This is the first volume in the Minnesota Trilogy by Vidar Sundstøl, a Norwegian author who spent two years living on the North Shore of Lake Superior. The Land of Dreams will be followed by Only the Dead (2014) and The Raven (2015). After reading the first, I’m impatient to read the rest.

As the novel opens, Lance Hansen, a forest ranger who patrols the national forest that occupies so much of Cook County, a vast wedge of land stretching between the lake and the Canadian border, is on his way to speak with campers who have illegally pitched a tent near the lake not far from Baraga’s Cross. This is the kind of work he does – enforcing rules, preventing people from dumping garbage on public land, organizing search parties when vacationers got lost, occasionally encountering illegal logging or hidden meth labs. Nothing too dramatic. But this morning will be different.

"He parked his service vehicle at the end of the road and got out. It was 7:28. In front of him stretched Lake Superior. There was nothing to see but light and water and sky – no opposite shore on which to fix his eyes, just the illusory meeting of sky and the surface of the water far off in the distance."

As he heads down the path toward the granite marker that marks the spot where a European missonary once erected a wooden cross after surviving a stormy crossing in 1846, he finds a shoe and a handprint marking where someone fell. Then, as he gets closer to the cross, he sees a bare leg sticking out. A naked man is sitting against the cross, covered in blood and muttering something inaudible. The intonation seems familiar and Hansen realizes he’s speaking Norwegian. Only one word is audible: kjærlighet. Love.

Hansen finds another man not far away, bludgeoned to death. Soon the county’s sheriff arrives. Homicide isn’t a crime they’ve handled much. In fact, there hadn’t been a murder in Cook County in the 25 years he’s been its sheriff. Because the crime occured on federal land, an FBI agent is summoned fom the St. Paul field office, and he is soon joined by a Norwegian detective. Hansen’s involvement in the investigation is over – though there is one thing he’s holding back. He’d seen a familiar truck near the cross, one belonging to his brother Andy, who he understand less than his immigrant ancestors, whose history is stored in binders on floor-to-ceiling shelves in Hansen’s home office.

As the unofficial county historian, Hansen feels more comfortable in the past, and as the FBI agent and his Norwegian colleague try to discover whether a tourist killed his companion or whether someone else was responsible, Hansen becomes fascinated by old news accounts of a body found near the same place in 1892, It could have been the body of an Ojibwe medicine man named Swamper Caribou who’d gone missing earlier, a disappearance that may be connected to an old family story about a fifteen-year-old boy crossing the lake on a winter night – and possibly to Hansen’s dream of walking under the frozen surface of Lake Superior.

The Land of Dreaams, beautifully translated by Tiinna Nunnally, is an evocative novel that draws together past and present, the lives of immigrants and the indigenous inhabitants of the North Shore, American dreams and suppressed violence hidden behind calm exteriors and polite silences. In some ways this sounds like Karin Fossum’s explorations of the squirmy things living under the rocks of peaceful small towns in Norway, but in tone and style it’s far closer to Johan Theorin’s Öland quartet, which combines an atmospheric natural setting with pscychologically probing portraits and a very light touch of the supernatural.

I’m not surprised that it was awarded the Riverton Prize. It’s a very good book. I admit that I particularly enjoyed a setting that is familiar to me – just a few weeks before reading this book we traveled to the places where the story is set. Even if you haven’t been to the North Shore, this book will provide you with an interesting journey. The only problem is that you’ll want to return as soon as possible, as there is obviously more to the story.
  bfister | Oct 10, 2013 |
FTC Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I picked up this book for a number of reasons: (1) I’d like to read some Norwegian crime fiction that’s not by Jo Nesbø or Anne Holt. (2) The Land of Dreams has won or been nominated for a number of awards, which could be a plus or a negative because I don’t know the idiosyncracies of judging panels for every crime fiction award. (3) I liked Nunnally’s translation of Misterioso by Arne Dahl. (4) It’s a book written by a Norwegian about an area of the U.S. teeming with Norwegian Americans, which makes for an interesting perspective. According to the publisher, Sundstøl and his wife lived in Minnesota on Lake Superior for two years, and the time inspired him to write the Minnesota Trilogy. (5) And finally, I’m interested in the history of Great Lakes states since I’ve lived in Michigan over 10 years. But what about the story?

The Land of Dreams is a moody book that centers on Lance Hansen, a forty-something U.S. Forest Service police officer who discovers a dead Norwegian man near an area named Baraga’s Cross on Lake Superior. While Lance is not a participant in the investigation since he’s a main witness, the story follows him the most because of his discovery of the body and he is the local historian, complete with the county historical archive in his home. The moodiness comes about because of the gruesomeness of the crime, the intractableness of the investigation, and the lonesomeness of Lance as he’s trying to cope with the shock of the crime.

Some readers may fault sections of the book as an info dump: there’s an awful lot of time spent with the Norwegian settlers of Cook County Minnesota, Lance’s ancestors and his immediate family, the Ojibway who first settled the land, the fur trappers, and more. I didn’t mind the slow pace because I don’t know much about the background and history of northern Minnesota. Also, the history and the stories people tell are central to the solving of the crime as well as Lance’s investigation into the disappearance of an Ojibway man named Swamper Caribou over a hundred years ago. It definitely left me with a lot to think about “stories people tell over and over though they know it’s not true.” While I tend to prefer novels with more plot, this was an interesting read.
  rkreish | Aug 29, 2013 |
Lance Hanson is a Law Enforcement Officer for a national park in northern Minnesota on the shore of Lake Superior. When he stumbles upon the naked and dead body of a Norwegian tourist, he is thrown. Once he reports the murder, he no longer needs to be involved but he can't let it go. This is especially true when he comes across information that could incriminate a relative. The knowledge is tearing him up because he knows what he should do but knows he can't even after a man he thinks is innocent is charged.

The Land of Dreams is as much a psychological study of how our pasts and our relationships effect us as it is a murder mystery. As such, the pace tends to be rather slow and the story frequently wanders off in other directions seemingly unrelated to the crime: Hanson's family genealogy, the history of the early fur trade in the area and the Voyageurs, the influx of people of Scandinavian descent, and even some interesting details of the small towns in the area like Grand Marais and the Grand Portage Reservation. Hanson spends a great deal of time trying to solve another murder which happened over a hundred years ago which may explain something about the new murder.

Personally, I found all of this as interesting as the mystery itself but I lived in Thunder Bay where the fur trade moved after Grand Portage was closed to the British at the beginning of the 19th c., I have been to Grand Marais and have eaten at Sven & Ole's and I really like history. However, I'm not sure how others who don't know the area and who don't care about history would feel about all of this. I suspect many will find it boring which is a real shame. One thing, though, also unrelated; if you ever want to see some of the most beautiful and underappreciated scenery in either Canada or the US, this is where it's at.

The Land of Dreams has won awards in Norway and deservedly so. It is, as I said a bit slow-paced but, if you are willing to take the time, you will find its somewhat meandering path to its ending well worth the effort. To borrow the words of the poet, it is a 'path less travelled'. It is not your usual mystery. It is intelligent with some keen observations of the human experience and psyche. The ending came as somewhat of a surprise as it seems to leave the story hanging. it may be that the real outcome is in another book (this is part of a trilogy) but even if it isn't, there's a certain rightness to this ending, sort of a Lady and the Tiger kind of thing which forces the reader to reexamine some of the question pondered throughout the book: questions of family versus justice and where our responsibility lies and do we have the right to make these kind of judgments anyway. ( )
  lostinalibrary | Aug 17, 2013 |
My thanks to NetGalley and The University of Minnesota Press for the opportunity to read and review The Land of Dreams. What an interesting book this was. Although it is a crime novel, it really is much more a morality tale without a specific ending. Because of that, I found it quirky, yet real.
Lance Hanson is a forest policeman who's real love is history. He is the area historian, and he feels a real connection to the past. His work is pretty uninteresting until the day that he investigates a report of camping in an area that is supposed to be off limits. There he finds a remarkable crime scene that I will leave you to discover if you choose to read the book. The question is raised that day as to whether this was the first ever murder in the recorded history of the area. This, along with the memory of the scene itself, haunts Lance, and he is determined to figure out the answer. In researching the past, he finds a connection to a distant relative's arrival in the area and the disappearance of a native indian man. He is preoccupied with the connection and finds himself drawn more and more toward believing that a murder may have taken place involving this relative. Along with this, he starts connecting bits and pieces of evidence that may point toward his brother's connection to the present day crime. He is torn between doing his job and protecting his brother and family. The evidence swings back and forth and so does Lance's mind. The story is compelling but I was disappointed in the lack of conclusion. I did find the characters of the story to be well developed and interesting. The connection the author made between Lance and the Norwegian investigator sent to help with the case added a depth to the story telling. I also appreciated the history that the author brought out in the telling of this modern story and how he created a symmetry with Lance's predecessor. I did not know that this was previously published in Norwegian as the first of a trilogy until I finished the book. I will probably read the next book when it is translated and republished with the hope of a more solid conclusion, but I am not sure that the author has chosen to bring about such. I would guess that this is a title that will have many different reactions from readers. Some will undoubtedly love it, while others might not even choose to finish it. For me, it was a good story that made me think, but left me flat with the lack of a conclusion; either good or bad. I leave it to you to make your own decision. ( )
  c.archer | Jul 15, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Vidar Sundstølprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nunnally, TiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Innskjøen glitret i solskinnet.
The lake glittered in the sunlight.
Innsjøen glitret i solskinnet.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0816689407, Hardcover)


Winner of the Riverton Prize for best Norwegian crime novel and named by Dagbladet as one of the top twenty-five Norwegian crime novels of all time, The Land of Dreams is the chilling first installment in Vidar Sundstøl’s critically acclaimed Minnesota Trilogy, set on the rugged north shore of Lake Superior and in the region’s small towns and deep forests.


The grandson of Norwegian immigrants, Lance Hansen is a U.S. Forest Service officer and has a nearly all-consuming passion for local genealogy and history. But his quiet routines are shattered one morning when he comes upon a Norwegian tourist brutally murdered near a stone cross on the shore of Lake Superior. Another Norwegian man is nearby; covered in blood and staring out across the lake, he can only utter the word kjærlighet. Love.


FBI agent Bob Lecuyer is assigned to the case, as is Norwegian detective Eirik Nyland, who is immediately flown in from Oslo. As the investigation progresses, Lance begins making shocking discoveries—including one that involves the murder of an Ojibwe man on the very same site more than one hundred years ago. As Lance digs into two murders separated by a century, he finds the clues may in fact lead toward someone much closer to home than he could have imagined.


The Land of Dreams is the opening chapter in a sweeping chronicle from one of Norway’s leading crime writers—a portrait of an extraordinary landscape, an exploration of hidden traumas and paths of silence that trouble history, and a haunting study in guilt and the bonds of blood.


(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:03 -0400)

" Winner of the Riverton Prize for best Norwegian crime novel and named by Dagbladet as one of the top twenty-five Norwegian crime novels of all time, The Land of Dreams is the chilling first installment in Vidar Sundst?l's critically acclaimed Minnesota Trilogy, set on the rugged north shore of Lake Superior and in the region's small towns and deep forests. The grandson of Norwegian immigrants, Lance Hansen is a U.S. Forest Service officer and has a nearly all-consuming passion for local genealogy and history. But his quiet routines are shattered one morning when he comes upon a Norwegian tourist brutally murdered near a stone cross on the shore of Lake Superior. Another Norwegian man is nearby; covered in blood and staring out across the lake, he can only utter the word kj?rlighet. Love. FBI agent Bob Lecuyer is assigned to the case, as is Norwegian detective Eirik Nyland, who is immediately flown in from Oslo. As the investigation progresses, Lance begins to make shocking discoveries--including one that involves the murder of an Ojibwe man on the very same site more than one hundred years ago. As Lance digs into two murders separated by a century, he finds the clues may in fact lead toward someone much closer to home than he could have imagined. The Land of Dreams is the opening chapter in a sweeping chronicle from one of Norway's leading crime writers--a portrait of an extraordinary landscape, an exploration of hidden traumas and paths of silence that trouble history, and a haunting study in guilt and the bonds of blood. "--… (more)

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