Sunday 16 April 2017

Faithless by Kjell Ola Dahl

Published by Orenda Books on April 15, 2017

Faithless is the first book I have read in the Oslo Detectives series, the first one translated into English I think, but judging by the quality of this book and that ending, I am desperate to get my hands on any future translated books in the series! This book had me gripped from page one. I’d just flicked it open to read the opening chapter before bed and before I knew it early morning sunlight was peeking through the curtains and I was down to my last twenty pages. I was so absorbed in the plot and was unaware of just how quickly I had been reading it until then, but there hadn’t been a single moment where I considered putting the book down. Faithless is a dark and atmospheric novel and one that I found to be utterly enthralling.

When the body of a woman is found dumped, scalded with hot water and wrapped in plastic, Oslo detective Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that the woman is not only someone he’d met recently but also someone he arrested recently as she was in possession of cocaine. On top of that, she also has connections to an old friend of Frølich and so he has a bit more invested in this particular case than he should have. I thought Frølich’s personal link to this case made it all the more interesting as we get to see the development of his character too as he battles with his conscience and the lines between professional and unprofessional conduct. He’s put in a difficult position but I liked the challenges he faces as it made me warm to his grumpy persona even more. Frølich is a complex character and I found the more we learn about him, the more intrigued by him I was.

I have to say just how much I love how the cover represents the woman’s body wrapped in plastic. This is such a stunning and powerful graphic which showcases one of the main themes of this novel. One thing I loved about this book though was just how much was going on. There are many cases rolled into one book here and each of them are resolved at their own pace which allows the other unsolved cases to take over. Not only is there the identity of the murderer to discover but also a missing student case to uncover as well as much more in this relatively short but impactful novel.

As the layers to the book peel away, what is left behind is one main case, the murder of Veronika Undset, and this particular case had me glued to the pages dying to get some answers. I was truly blind-sighted by the author as I guessed the outcome of the case early on and then by the time we discover what really happened my own guess was forgotten as I had about ten other ideas about what could have happened and they were, of course, all wrong, because I was right the first time! I loved picking at some of the clues and trying to work this one out for myself. I found that the somewhat calmer nature of the police in Faithless enabled me to get more involved in trying to figure it all out myself and this is one aspect I particularly enjoyed because it makes for a more inviting police procedural novel where, as the reader, I felt more a part of it than I would usually.

Frølich and Gunnarstranda are the main detectives in Faithless and despite not knowing any of their history I didn’t feel like I’d missed out on too much by not having read the other, untranslated books in the series. To me even though Faithless is part of a series it read like a standalone in that nothing felt lacking. This was an easy book to slip right into and the dynamics between the workforce early on, and throughout, helped me to engage in the story and the characters soon became familiar to me which is not normally the case when you begin reading in the middle of a series.

The pacing of Faithless was exactly how I liked it, not rushed but instead built up and teased out in a slower, steadier pace, burning with tension and haunting with its lingering prose. I found the tone to the writing at times could be quite chilling and suspenseful as the case in this book is quite a bleak one. I don’t think I’ve been this engrossed in a book like this for a long time. The author had me absolutely hooked from the moment we discover Veronika has been murdered and though I could not wait to discover what had happened to her, I was disappointed that the book had to come to an end because I was enjoying it too much. I’m a big fan of that ending though, and I will be recommending this book for a long time to come, right until I can hopefully get my hands on the next book in the series.

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