Fallen Angels by Gunnar Staalesen, published by Orenda Books @OrendaBooks @annecater #GunnarStaalesen #review #blog

I was so lucky to receive an advance copy of Fallen Angels by Gunnar Staalesen. A credible and dark page-turner with a relentless pace. Vivid, taut and evocative, this book had my pulse racing from start to finish.


Ever-dogged Bergen PI Varg Veum has to dig deep into his own past as he investigates the murder of a former classmate. Vintage, classic Nordic Noir from international bestselling author Gunnar Staalesen.

Description: 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 – the once-famous lead singer of 1960s rock band The Harpers – and his estranged wife, Rebecca, Veum’s first love.

Their rekindled friendship come to an abrupt end with 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.

  • Paperback : 276 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1913193063
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1913193065
  • Publisher : Orenda Books (March 1, 2021)

PI Varg Veum reunites with a former friend Jakob at the funeral of Jan Petter in Bergen. The reunion brings back old memories of former classmates, some of whom have already died, but none, as it turns out, from old age.

Deciding to go for a pub crawl with their friend Paul Finckel, they reminisce about the past. There’s a melancholy mood to the opening chapters as if the ‘group’ are trying to reclaim their youth, trapped in an eddy of musical memories of The Harpers for which Veum was a roadie. They drink and carouse the night away, while ‘valleslette’ – sleet and biting winds and a few degrees above zero – sets the tone. Even though there is no life on the fjord there is always the Beetles…

Jakob asks Veum to search for his wife, Rebecca, a girl who grew up with Veum in Nordnes in the 60s. Thinking she may have run off with Johnny Solheim, Veum makes inquiries. But Johnny has a wife and claims he hasn’t seen Rebecca.

A few hours in another Sodom and Gomorrah type watering hole ‘where Caligula would have felt at home,’ Veum finds a heap of bad news outside. Holed up in a tight space and dreaming of the Rebecca he once knew, he is forced to answer a few questions. As another picture of an angel surfaces, Veum’s sharp instincts recognise the deaths may be connected. What did happened after the dissolution of the band? Someone is carrying around an awful secret and with Staalesen’s great sense of pacing, the reveal was phenomenal.

Fallen Angels is a remarkable example of its genre. The religious and psychological aspects bring deeper layers to the novel as told in powerful prose. It’s an elegant and complex thriller, meticulously laid out with a corkscrewing plot. The characters are well-drawn and mysterious, and the protagonist takes us on a wild ride with vivid scenes of Norway in December and its snowy, sleet-grey skies. There’s no doubt about it: Staalesen belongs on every crime fiction reader’s bookshelf.

My thanks to the publisher, Orenda Books, the author, Gunnar Staalesen and Anne Cater, blog tour organiser for the privilege of reading an advance copy of this book.


Praise for Gunnar Staalesen

‘Gunnar Staalesen is one of my very favourite Scandinavian authors. Operating out of Bergen in Norway, his private eye, Varg Veum, is a complex but engaging anti-hero. Varg means “wolf ” in Norwegian, and this is a series with very sharp teeth’ Ian Rankin

‘The Norwegian Chandler’ Jo Nesbø

‘Not many books hook you in the first chapter – this one did, and never let go!’ Mari Hannah

‘Staalesen continually reminds us he is one of the finest of Nordic novelists’ Financial Times

‘Chilling and perilous results — all told in a pleasingly dry style’ Sunday Times

‘Staalesen does a masterful job of exposing the worst of Norwegian society in this highly disturbing entry’ Publishers Weekly

‘The Varg Veum series is more concerned with character and motivation than spectacle, and it’s in the quieter scenes that the real drama lies’ Herald Scotland

‘Every inch the equal of his Nordic confreres Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbo’ Independent

‘Mature and captivating’ Herald Scotland

‘One of the finest Nordic novelists – in the tradition of Henning Menkell’ Barry Forshaw, Independent

‘Masterful pacing’ Publishers Weekly

About the Author

One of the fathers of Nordic Noir, Gunnar Staalesen published the first book in the Varg Veum series in 1977. He is now the author of over 20 titles, which have been published in 24 countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007. Staalesen has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour), Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award for Nordic Crime Fiction, and Big Sister was shortlisted in 2019. 

Granite Noir fest 2017. Gunnar Staalesen.

Other Books by Gunnar Staalesen

A Warm Welcome to author Angela Wren

AEWBlackWhite (2)I’m really excited to welcome author Angela Wren today who is here to talk about her favorite scene from a book called ‘In this House of Brede’ by Rumer Godden.

Angela has written her own book Messandrierre – the first in a new crime series featuring investigator, Jacques Forêt.

Messandrierre was published by Crooked Cat Publishing in December, 2015 and is currently available in Kindle format.

For background information on Angela, see her bio and book blurb below.

Author Bio

Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre. I’ve been writing, in a serious way, for about 5 years. My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio. The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

Favorite Scene

I’d be hard pressed to say that the scene I want to talk about is my favorite because it is so very sad. Read on and you’ll understand why.

The book is ‘In this House of Brede’ by Rumer Godden. Published in 1969, it is one of around 60 that Godden wrote in her long career, which ended at the age of 91 in 1998. She is perhaps best known for her novels, ‘The Greengage Summer’, ‘Black Narcissus’ and ‘An Episode of Sparrows’. All of which, along with ‘In this House of Brede’ were adapted for film, although not all of the original titles were used.

Philippa Talbot is a successful businesswoman when the story begins in London in 1954. She has a history and a torn heart but, at this point in the novel, the reader does not know why. She gives up her job to join the sisters at Brede Abbey and the story of her new life unfolds gradually along side the very clever drip-feed of what happened to her son, Keith. In chapter 12 Philippa finally explains herself to Abbess Catherine.

Pic01BkCover‘It began with a nugget…’ she says. The nugget being gold and her son Keith and Darrell, a young friend, seeking adventure in an old mine whilst the adults were enjoying a lunch party in the garden. The ensuing description of Darrell’s return to the adults without Keith, the rush of grown-ups to find the missing boy, the realization in Philippa’s mind of what might have happened, the desperate search in the mine and the recognition of voices between separated mother and son is one of the most moving pieces of writing that I ever come across.

Keith was trapped at the bottom of a short shaft and over the three days that he was there with the local men who were trying to rescue him, Philippa never once moved from her spot at the top of the shaft and never stopped calling and speaking to her son. By the end of the chapter you know the child suffered greatly as he waited. And there is one very simple sentence, which I believe, absolutely no one can read without being brought to tears. It is at this point the Philippa admits that she should have left the mine and let the men recover the body out of her sight.

I have read this book several times and I have never been able to get through those seven pages in Chapter 12 without a hanky. However, the final outcome of the book is happier and Philippa had to exorcise her grief and this particular scene is a masterpiece despite the sadness of the content.

As you can probably work out from the cover, my copy is a first edition. I it picked up in an old bookshop for a fraction of its true value. But, if you want to read the book, you can get a paperback copy for as little as 1p on Amazon. A seriously insulting price, in my view, when you consider the artistry and word-smithing evident in chapter 12 alone!

I can only aspire to write as well as Godden, but my current novel is also available on Amazon!

Book Blurb

Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre.

If, like me, you are a fan of great detective stories, do yourself a favor and pick up this book, it’s that good! Amazon 5 Star Reviewer

But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won’t give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman for all the work on the case.

CoverArt (2)Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim?

Messandrierre – the first in a new crime series featuring investigator, Jacques Forêt.

There are many twists and turns before the book ends … The author keeps us guessing throughout. Five Star Amazon reviewer

Why not visit Angela at her links below:

Book Links

Amazon US

Amazon UK