Dahl, K O - 'Lethal Investments' (translated by Don Bartlett)
LETHAL INVESTMENTS by K O Dahl is the first in the Gunnarstranda and Frohlich series of police procedurals set in Olso. This book was written in 1993, but only translated into English in 2011, after three of the later books in the series.
In this book Gunnarstranda and Frohlich investigate the death of Reidun Rosendal, an attractive young saleswoman, found murdered in her flat. As she had picked up a young labourer, Sigurd, the night before, at Scarlet, a trendy club/restaurant, who left the flat shortly before she was found, he naturally starts off as the obvious prime suspect. A rather disgusting elderly neighbour, the peeping tom Johanssen, who watched Reidun and Sigurd that night from his flat, seems convinced that Sigurd was the killer, but may be holding information back from the police.
Once Gunnarstranda and Frolich start investigating Reidun's workplace, Software Investments, they start to wonder whether the crime might not be a simple crime of passion after all. From a business point of view Software Investments appears rather shady on closer examination and Reidun's colleagues are a dubious bunch, including a conman, a hunting and fitness fanatic, and an alcoholic, some of whom were romantically entangled with the attractive Reidun. Gunnarstranda and Frohlich eventually discover the identity of the killer, after several interviews with witnesses and suspects, and a coincidental stroke of luck eventually leads to the truth.
Gunnarstranda and Frohlich make a refreshing change from the rather more earnest socially conscious and/or family oriented type of police officer typically seen in recent Scandinavian crime fiction. Gunnarstranda is a middle aged misanthropic widower, small, unprepossessing and somewhat crochety, and Frohlich is a younger, educated type, more sociable, keen on a drink or three and distracted at times by his romance with a commune dweller. Both policemen seem quite happy to bait witnesses and suspects in their quest for information. As the book progresses, we see how Frohlich comes to appreciate Gunnarstranda's experience and insight.
Characterisation and social satire rather than plot is the strength of this book. K O Dahl writes with a sharp and dry wit. His style is unflinching, and makes for uncomfortable reading at times; he makes some rather brutally accurate observations about defects of character and appearance, and and doesn't shy away from the less pleasant aspects of sex (including some brief but unpleasant detail about the type of violent porn Johanssen enjoys). Nonetheless I definitely intend to read the other books in this series.
Laura Root, England