Yours Until Death, by Gunnar Staalesen

by Peter

This book is classic Varg Veum, and a strong addition to the series. Yours Until Death, by Gunnar StaalesenOriginally entitled Din til døden and published in 1979, it was the second book published in Gunnar Staalesen’s much celebrated series about the Bergen sleuth Varg Veum, and Staalesen’s Norwegian breakthrough. Yours Until Death is a relatively noir crime fiction novel, set in bleak and rainy Bergen and featuring a disillusioned Veum, a man with a past as a social worker – but without much of a present. He is now divorced detective, nearly broke, has no clients to speak of, and lots of unpaid bills.

Then one rainy day he actually gets a new client. Roar, a little man, eight and a half years old and sharp as a tack , comes to Varg’s office with a problem. He has found the sleuth in the telephone book, listed under “Detective Bureaus”.

“Maybe it was because he was the youngest client I’d ever had. Maybe it was because he reminded me of another little boy in another part of Bergen. Or maybe it was because I had nothing else to do. Anyway, I listened to him.”

Somebody has stolen Roar’s bike, and he wants Varg to help him get it back. He knows who stole it, and he knows where it is. The bike is being held hostage by a gang of teenagers from his neighborhood who specialize in terrorizing the locals, and are led by a nineteen year old psychopath named Joker. These bad boys want to lure Roar’s mother to their hut in the forest to get the bike so they can molest her, as they have molested others.

Varg Veum recovers the stolen bike, and meets Roar’s mother Wenche Andresen – a beautiful and blue-eyed, shy, and very sensuous woman – and becomes infatuated by her. However, what seemingly is the conclusion of yet another trivial case turns into the beginning of something far bigger and more ominous.; Varg gets sucked into a murder case where the victim is Roar’s father and the person accused of the murder is Roar’s mother.- Varg is convinced that Wenche is innocent, even though all the evidence points to her. Trying to prove her innocence, and perhaps also to win her love, Veum very soon finds himself in grave danger.

Yours Until Death is great crime fiction by Gunnar Staalesen (left on the picture, with Varg Veum – actor Trond Espen Seim right), wonderfully written and excellently translated into English by Margaret Amassian; very dark yet full of dark and understated humor and at times almost unbearably tense. It is a novel more than anything about the potentially destructive force of lust and passion.

‘one of the finest, most serious, most ambitious books in post-war Norwegian crime writing’ – Norwegian critic Nils Nordberg

‘Staalesen is another fine representative of Scandinavian crime fiction’—
Independent

‘Varg Veum is in the best traditions of sleuthery’ —The Times

See also our reviews of the Varg Veum movies on DVD!

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