Norwegian author Kjell Ola Dahl is known as the Godfather of Nordic Noir. As I love the dark, tense, atmospheric plots of this genre, I jumped at the chance to read Little Drummer, the latest novel from Dahl. And crikey, it is a dark, sinister and very intriguing story. It also has a clever twist near the end.
When journalist Lise Fagerness discovers a dead body sitting in a car hidden in the corner of a multi-storey carpark, everyone suspects the dead woman has overdosed. Just for the petty reason that Oslo detective Gunnarstranda wants to ‘use sorely needed funds‘ to irritate ‘his boss, the budget holder‘ and pay back a senior officer ‘for a deliberate slight,’ an autopsy is commissioned on the body. It is only then that it is discovered that the woman has been murdered. As Gunnarstranda pursues the case alongside his colleague Frølich, they soon link the dead woman to a research scientist from Kenya who has been reported missing.
Frustrated with how the investigation is going in Oslo, Gunnarstranda sends a reluctant Frølich to Kenya in search of the missing scientist. Also traveling to Kenya is Lise, the journalist that originally discovered the body. She is in pursuit of the story that she started. Yet when they arrive in Africa, Lise and Frølich uncover a devastating web of corruption. Back in Norway, Gunnarstranda is seeking out the cold bloodied killers of the young, dead woman.
Little Drummer is a sophisticated and complex narrative that explores an illegal, dark side of the pharmaceutical industry linked to foreign aid: ‘HIV as a business…ignoring chivalrous acts of charity and the wish to help fellow men. We’re talking business and we’re talking enormous profits.’
When I started reading this gritty thriller, it didn’t feel quite contemporary to me. From research I soon discovered that Little Drummer was originally published in 2003. I read it as a standalone novel, yet it is the eighth in the Oslo detective series. There’s no doubt about it, I did enjoy it, especially the claustrophobic seediness of the tense narrative. However in hindsight I wish I had read at least some of the previous novels in the series as Gunnarstranda and Frølich clearly have intriguing backstories. They are both very human, flawed characters and I want to know more about them.
Little Drummer is a hard hitting, powerful novel exploring important issues. Just to warn you, it does include some racist language which made me feel uncomfortable at times.
Thank you once again to to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the blog tour of Little Drummer, which has been translated into English by Don Bartlett.
Little Drummer is is released in paperback on Thursday 26 May by Orenda Books. Thank you Karen Sullivan from Orenda for my advance copy. I loved the dark plot involving corruption, power and politics.