Bitter Flowers by Gunnar Staalesen tr. Don Bartlett #bookreview #BitterFlowers #VargVeum #NordicNoir #ChillingWinterReads

Fresh from rehab, Norwegian PI Varg Veum faces his most complex investigation yet, when a man is found drowned, a young woman disappears, and the case of a missing child is revived. The classic Nordic Noir series continues…
PI Varg Veum has returned to duty following a stint in rehab, but his new composure and resolution are soon threatened when a challenging assignment arrives on his desk.
A man is found dead in an elite swimming pool and a young woman has gone missing. Most chillingly, Varg Veum is asked to investigate the ‘Camilla Case’: an eight-year-old cold case involving the disappearance of a little girl, who was never found.
As the threads of these apparently unrelated crimes come together, against the backdrop of a series of shocking environmental crimes, Varg Veum faces the most challenging, traumatic investigation of his career.


Hi and welcome to my review of Bitter Flowers!

I’m always happy to catch up with Varg Veum, the quintessential Nordic investigator, and Bitter Flowers proved to be another challenging case for Veum and me both!

Bitter Flowers starts where Fallen Angels ended: it’s the 1980s and Veum is fresh out of rehab. He’s doing really well and his physiotherapist and friend Lisbeth Finslo managed to land him an easy-peasy job house-sitting for a wealthy couple while they’re travelling.

Obviously, it’s all too good to be true. While Lisbeth shows him around the house, they discover a body in the swimming pool. And while Veum is fishing said body from said pool, Lisbeth disappears. And so, after one short chapter, my WTH sensors were on high alert and Gunnar Staalesen had my full attention.

It gets worse though (or even better, depending on your point of view). It soon appears that this current death might be linked to the disappearance of a little girl eight years before. As Veum digs deeper, he discovers another event that might be linked to both cases. After a while it starts to feel a little incestuous, all these people who are somehow linked, all these threads that are somehow connected, yet I could not figure it out. The truth was just around the corner but it kept eluding me.

I had the best time trying to put the pieces together, although it did feel like making a jigsaw puzzle without being able to look at the picture on the box. I was 100% certain about one element but in the end I was proven dead wrong, there’s a reason why Veum’s the PI and I’m not.

Bitter Flowers is a fabulous slice of Nordic Noir, clever and intricate, featuring one of my favourite Nordic characters. Veum is self-deprecating and has this dry sense of humour that never fails to make me snort. If you’re into the Varg Veum series, I heartily recommend you add Bitter Flowers to your collection, and if you’re new to the series but would like to give it a try, this is actually a great place to start, because this is not an instalment that relies heavily on previous books.

Bitter Flowers is out now in digital formats and will be out in paperback next month. (Pre)order it directly from Orenda Books here. Keep an eye out for the January blog tour, during which I will have an extract for you.

Massive thanks to Orenda Books for the gorgeous proof. All opinions are still my own.

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