Talking Location With … author Simon Carr, Beira Beixa, Portugal
Dark thriller set in Oslo and Stockholm
19th March 2019
The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl – dark thriller set in Oslo and Stockholm (translated by Don Bartlett).
The Courier is the 11th book by Kjell Ola Dahl, one of the fathers of Nordic Noir. The first was published in back in 1993. Eight of the books are police procedurals featuring investigator Gunnarstranda and his sidekick, Frank Frølich. But The Courier is quite different.
It is set in three time zones – briefly the present day (or rather 2015), 1967, and 1942. Alternate chapters switch between 1967 and 1942. It is Oslo in 1942. Ester, a Jewish girl delivering underground anti-Nazi newspapers, is betrayed – she knows not by whom – and has to flee to Stockholm. Her family are sent to Auschwitz where they all perish… She suffers from guilt at having escaped. In Stockholm, she meets Gerhard Falkum, a hero of the resistance who has also fled Oslo. Gerhard left under a cloud, with accusations (which he vehemently denies) that he murdered his wife and left his young daughter an orphan. Åse, Gerhard’s wife, was Ester’s best friend when she was young… A relationship between them is beginning to develop – when Gerhard is killed in a mysterious house fire.
25 years later (in 1967), Gerhard returns from the dead and appears in Oslo – to everyone’s surprise and amazement. Where has he been for 25 years, and why has he returned? His alleged reason is to catch up with his daughter, but there must be more. And he lies about where he has been – says he is a car dealer in the States, but this is not true. Slowly it begins to emerge that he may have been involved with US and UK intelligence – and that they may even have faked his death in Stockholm all those years ago.
Ester, and others from his 1942 past, are trying to second guess him and control what is happening. But it is very difficult. There are many mutual suspicions. Old concerns and fears are raised again…
The Courier moves to a frightening conclusion in a graveyard, where all is revealed. The ending is both surprising and convincing.
Both Oslo (in 1942 and 1967) and Stockholm (in 1942) are well described. A very scary time for the Jewish population – indeed for most citizens – of Oslo is covered in sensitivity and a sense of outrage. And 1942 returns to haunt the inhabitants of 1967.
This is Nordic Noir at its best – a great example of what good thrillers should be about.
Tony for the TripFiction team
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