Willnot – James Sallis

willnot

Normally I’d post the blurb for the book here. This time, I won’t, for reasons I’ll go into below…

Let me start by saying that Willnot was not the book I was expecting to read. The promo blurb suggests a certain kind of deep southern noir which it turns out not to quite be. Now, that’s not to say that it’s not a good book – it certainly is that.

Sallis introduces us to the town of Willnot and its resident physician, Dr Lamar Hale as a grim discovery is made on the outskirts of the town. However, the book is more concerned with the impact that these bodies have on the inhabitants of the town over the course of the following months.

Willnot is a character-driven piece of literary fiction rather than being a more regular crime procedural, and Sallis is a master at showing character. Lamar and his partner Richard form the backbone to the novel as the events unfurl around them. Their relationship is charming and warm, and they are surrounded by a splendid array of sometimes eccentric characters who just exude authenticity.

At times through the novel I was unsure of where Sallis was taking me. As I said above, I was expecting more of a whodunnit noir, but instead just enjoyed the ride, watching the people go past.

Willnot is a short novel, but a perfectly formed one.

Many thanks to No Exit Press for the review copy. You can find them on twitter @noexitpress

We Shall Inherit The Wind – Gunnar Staalesen

“He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.”
~ Proverbs

We Shall Inherit the Wind BF AW.indd

1998. Varg Veum sits by the hospital bedside of his long-term girlfriend Karin, whose life-threatening injuries provide a deeply painful reminder of the mistakes he’s made. Investigating the seemingly innocent disappearance of a wind-farm inspector, Varg Veum is thrust into one of the most challenging cases of his career, riddled with conflicts, environmental terrorism, religious fanaticism, unsolved mysteries and dubious business ethics. Then, in one of the most heart-stopping scenes in crime fiction, the first body appears…
A chilling, timeless story of love, revenge and desire, We Shall Inherit the Wind deftly weaves contemporary issues with a stunning plot that will leave you gripped to the final page. This is Staalesen at his most thrilling, thoughtprovoking best.

I’ve been on a bit of a Nordic Noir kick recently thanks to Karen at Orenda Books, and when I was asked if I’d like to take part in the blog tour for Gunnar Staalesen’s We Shall Inherit the Wind, I jumped at the chance.

This is the first of Staalesen’s books that I’ve read, though it appears he’s somewhat better known in Norway – he’s written over 20 titles which have been published in 24 countries, and he’s sold over four million copies. There have been twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels. I’ll have to track them down!

The story starts, as it were, at the end. Varg Veum is at his girlfriend’s bedside. Something terrible has happened and we’re about to find out what. We jump back into a missing person case where Varg has been called in to investigate the whereabouts of Mons Maeland. by his wife. The story unfolds like an origami rose, slowly unveiling more and more layers as we’re drawn deeper into the mystery. Where is Maeland? What’s the link between his disappearance and the proposed wind farm over on the small island of Brennøy?

The mystery is gradually revealed and, as with all great crime stories, each fresh revelation fills in another facet of the picture. Rumours are confirmed, secrets uncovered and a *lot* of coffee is consumed. I thought that *I* drank a lot of coffee, but one thing I’ve noticed about the nordic crime scene is how much coffee they drink!

At heart it’s a story of relationships, and how far people are willing to go to preserve the natural habitat and the consequences of their actions. Families and community are neatly portrayed and dissected by the lone wolf, Varg. Tidbits of information are teased out of people, revealing an unsettling dark side to a lot of the characters.

Staalesen has been called the Norwegian Chandler and Veum is your quintessential private investigator. There’s even a life-sized statue of Varg Veum in the centre of Bergen.

Gunnar with Varg Veum statue

I loved how his character developed through the course of the story. There have been other Varg Veum books but the character is so strong and the story so well crafted that you don’t feel you’re missing out by starting with this book. I’d love to read more and luckily the next instalments in the Varg Veum series – Where Roses Never Die and No One Is So Safe in Danger – will be published by Orenda Books in 2016 and 2017.  Sign me up!

Many thanks must go to Karen at Orenda Books for my review copy.

The blog tour continues tomorrow with Tracy Shephard over at Postcard reviews.

We Shall Inherit the Wind Blog Tour