Fallen Angels by Gunnar Staalesen tr. Don Bartlett #bookreview #FallenAngels #ScandiSaturday #StaalesenSaturday #NordicNoir #Orentober

Exploring his own dark memories may be the only way to find a killer…
When Bergen PI Varg Veum finds himself at the funeral of a former classmate on a sleet-grey December afternoon, he’s unexpectedly reunited with his old friend Jakob – guitarist of the once-famous 1960s rock band The Harpers – and his estranged wife, Rebecca, Veum’s first love.
Their rekindled friendship is thrown into jeopardy by the discovery of a horrific murder, and Veum is forced to dig deep into his own adolescence and his darkest memories, to find a motive … and a killer.
Tense, vivid and deeply unsettling, Fallen Angels is the spellbinding, award-winning thriller that secured Gunnar Staalesen’s reputation as one of the world’s foremost crime writers.


Hi and welcome to another #ScandiSaturday / #StaalesenSaturday!

Last year I talked about the 17th and 18th books in the Varg Veum series (ICYMI), yes, this series has been around forever, as I said in my #ScandiSaturday introduction: the first Varg Veum was published in 1977. Today, I’ll be talking about the 8th book, Fallen Angels, which was published originally in 1989, but was translated by Don Bartlett and published by Orenda Books in 2020.

Don’t let the numbers scare you, this series is really easy to dip into with whichever book you want, coming from me, who religiously reads series in the correct order, that means a lot!

I had listened to the penultimate book in the series, Big Sister, just before diving into Fallen Angels and I’ll admit I needed a minute to come to terms with this younger Veum I encountered in Fallen Angels. I’ve always liked Veum but in Fallen Angels, I found him a bit of a womanizer at first, a bit too obsessed perhaps with the various women in his life – and they were quite a few too. (Don’t worry, by the end he had redeemed himself entirely 😉)

In comparison to the other Veum novels I’ve read, Fallen Angels seems a little less taut: usually the story kicks off with a crime or a mystery to be solved, and hello, there is Varg Veum, PI, lone wolf – and perhaps also a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as people tend to underestimate him. It’s what I’ve come to expect from Staalesen, but Fallen Angels offers its readers a more nostalgic protagonist, one that is reminiscing and remembering.

While it was actually quite lovely to find out a little more about Veum and to get to know this other side of him, and there was nothing superfluous about these trips down memory lane, my crime-loving heart was waiting for a crime-solving Veum. Oh how happy I was when someone got murdered and Veum got to investigate! Like Veum, I saw so many pieces of the puzzle but I couldn’t quite figure out how they all fit together. The conclusion took my breath away and I realised that I’d become really invested in the story. The final paragraphs are beautifully melancholy and poetic and they made me sad to have to say goodbye to Veum again.

Overall, I had a great time with Fallen Angels. I thoroughly enjoyed joining Veum in piecing together the murder and what might have happened ten years earlier to cause it. If you’re a fan of Nordic investigators, do pick up this series if you haven’t already!

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

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