We Shall Inherit the Wind, by Gunnar Staalesen, translated by Don Bartlett, Orenda, RRP £8.99, 263 pages
Bergen may be a beautiful city, but it has its less salubrious side – and Gunnar Staalesen’s volatile detective Varg Veum knows every inch of it. Norwegian master Staalesen is an author who eschews police procedural narratives for noirish private eye pieces such as We Shall Inherit the Wind, with Veum topically on the trail of a missing windfarm inspector and encountering the usual battery of hostility and non-cooperation, along with (more dangerously) environmental terrorism and religious fanaticism. Staalesen dislikes Scandinavian parochial in his writing, and continues to work — bravely, some would say — in a traditional US-style genre, drawing on such writers as the late Ross Macdonald. Nevertheless, he is a contemporary writer; there is some abrasive Scandicrime social commentary here; as Veum says: ‘How could so many people who worked all day for the same admirable purpose – to create a better global environment – end up in their own camp, beneath their own flag, with impassable territorial lines?’
The Wrong Girl, by Laura Wilson, Quercus, RRP £19.99, 374 pages
Are crime readers suffering from detective fatigue? Or is the turn away from dyspeptic, sociopathic sleuths towards ordinary individuals whose lives are based on a lie more to do with the current ‘domestic noir’ trend? Take The Wrong Girl, in which Laura Wilson’s copper Inspector Stratton is nowhere to be found: the focus here is a woman, Janice, returning to Norfolk to be reunited with the daughter she painfully gave up for adoption years before, and discovering the grim truth behind several carefully contrived façades. In fact, it’s not such a seismic switch for Wilson, whose earlier books concentrated more on the darker recesses of the human psyche than the exigencies of the detective novel. The Wrong Girl, in which certain characters are not what they seem to be, is perfectly in tune with the tenor of what readers are currently consuming. Hopefully, those readers will not be put off by the impenetrable plot synopsis on the jacket.