Where Roses Never Die – Gunnar Staalesen
September 1977. Mette Misvaer, 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 expiry 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
My thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for my review copy
I first encountered Gunnar Staalesen’s books last year when I read We Shall Inherit The Wind. I had enjoyed that immensely and was keen to read more about Varg Veum, so when the opportunity to join the Where Roses Never Die blog tour came along I jumped at the chance.
As detailed above, Where Roses Never Die is an investigation into an abducted child – almost 25 years ago a three year old girl (Mette) vanished from the sandpit outside her house. Spin forward to the early days of the new millennium and Mette’s mother contacts Varg Veum asking if he can investigate the disappearance of her daughter before the statue of limitations expires.
Mette and her family lived in a very small suburban community and the residents of the neighbouring houses are going to provide the best possible leads for Veum to start. It quickly becomes obvious that there are long held secrets to be uncovered and challenged. Veum will have his work cut out to uncover the half-truths, shake down the cobwebs of memory and refute the lies within the community (as it appears they all have reason to withhold information).
In addition to the historic disappearance of young Mette, the reader is aware that while Varg Veum has a “real time” problem to contend with too. An armed robbery in a jewellers shop appears to have a chance connection with Mette’s disappearance. This will cause problems when a PI comes a calling and faces the possibility of treading on the toes of an ongoing police investigation – especially when that PI is asking about a case the police did not solve many years earlier. Throw in a couple of heavy-duty thugs who seem intent to clip Veum’s wings and end his investigations permanently and we have an unexpected threat hanging over our hero’s head.
This felt like a proper detective story. The mystery of a missing child was presented. No clues over where she may have gone (she is likely to be dead) and we have a harrowing read for any parent. A seemingly impossible challenge for a PI who is facing his own personal demons – a battle against the bottle which is brilliantly depicted by the author. The need for me to know what happened to Mette kicked in – would Veum be able to close out a cold case? Is there even the slightest chance that this will have a happy ending? The ‘need to know’ factor keeps me reading – it’s great when it grabs hold of me early in a book.
Where Roses Never Die was read in a single lazy day. For once I was able to sit back and enjoy a book from cover to cover with minimal interruptions, the story flowed around me and I was able to lose myself in the plot. Following Varg Veum as he relentlessly chased down leads and unpicked lies was a very pleasant journey. Plaudits also must go to Don Bartlett who has done a splendid job translating Staalsesen’s original work and bringing us such a readable volume.
I am becoming a bit of a fan of Mr Staalesen’s books and Varg Veum is welcome to return any time he likes. I feel that I have a lot of catching up to do and I cannot wait to get started.
Where Roses Never Die is available in paperback and digital formats and can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Where-Roses-Never-Varg-Veum/dp/1910633097/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466359151&sr=8-1&keywords=where+roses+never+die