Lead Review

  • Book: Fallen Angels
  • Location: Bergen
  • Author: Gunnar Staalesen

Review Author: Tina Hartas



Fallen Angels, was published in Norwegian in 1989, and is now in English translation for the first time. It is an important book in that it was the one that established Gunnar Staalesen as a formidable talent in the crime writing community. He is up there with the very best. It is the third book in the Varg Veum series – although the first that achieved real critical claim. It has been followed by a further eight over the years to 2020.

It is 1986. Varg, ex social worker and now private investigator, attends the funeral of an old school friend, Jan Peter. In the late 60s, Jan had been in a band in Bergen called The Harpers with a number of Varg’s old classmates. They had been moderately successful. Also at the funeral is Jakob Aasen – another former classmate (and member of The Harpers), whom Varg has not seen for sixteen years. They chat and have drinks afterwards, with yet another classmate, Paul Finckel. It develops into a drunken evening… They reminisce about their youth.

There is a murder. A band member is murdered. Varg Veum gets involved – and discovers that all the members of the band (with the exception of Jakob) have met untimely and suspicious deaths (though not recognised as such by the authorities). Will Jakob be next, and will he listen to Varg’s attempts to help him? Why is someone targeting the group? What happened in the past to make this happen?

The story moves forward to a very dramatic denouement.

Fallen Angels is, though, a lot more than a great thriller. It is a story of someone going back into their adolescense to piece together what may have actually happened and what caused events to unfold as they did. Quite horrible incidences are revealed…It is, in that sense, quite a profound book covering the divergent paths life has taken for those who were once very close.

As ever with Gunnar’s work, Bergen comes through loud and clear – as it was both in the 60s and the 80s. It is a city I know a little (not well…) and it was fascinating to see various landmarks woven into the story.

A really good, enjoyable, and thought provoking book.

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

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Entries close 6th November 2021