Tuesday, 11 July 2017
Criminal Reading: Norway, 1969 - Satellite People by Hans Olav Lahlum
Satellite People by Hans Olav Lahlum
Beginning with an enigmatic phone call from a wealthy tycoon wishing to discuss an imminent threat to his life with Oslo homicide detective Inspector Kristiansen (known as K2), Lahlum's crime novel is both tribute to and dedicated to the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie.
Potential victim and detective never keep their Monday appointment as the tycoon is killed during a regular Sunday gathering of family and friends. His killer's identity provides the core conundrum for detecting partners K2 and his young, precociously bright, wheelchair-bound, friend - Patricia. But more people will die before they unearth the killer from amongst the dinner guests.
I try, but have to admit to rarely finding the "constructed" style of detective novel, full of chronological interviews, witness accounts and deductive discussion, a gripping read. So, much as I admire Lahlum's writing from reading his third in the "K2" series The Catalyst Killing a while ago, for this reason alone it took me some time to finish "Satellite People", his second novel in the series.
Lahlum is an excellent writer and this English translation by Kari Dickson works well. I like the way he sets his books retrospectively in the late 1960s and 1970s, a period which can still touch both pre- and postwar Europe (the dead tycoon in this story had been a member of the Norwegian Resistance) and in this way is able to bring a flavour of contemporary Nordic Noir social psychology to his plotting whilst constructing his books as classic, constrained, detective-mysteries.
In his end note, Lahlum pays tribute not only to Christie but to Conan Doyle. I can't help wondering if, given Lahlum's underlying sense of humour, he relishes the fact that Inspector Kristiansen is very much the Dr. Watson to Patricia's "Sherlock".
Believe it or not, despite causing me a slight reading struggle, I really recommend Lahlum's K2 series to fans of classic detective stories.