Sandstone Press, 2011
originally published as Bunnfall, 2010
Before I begin to set out my thoughts on this book, I have a question for publishers of Scandinavian crime fiction translated into English. Why are English-speaking readers constantly having to start reading the works of new authors in this genre so late in the series? Dregs is the perfect example. This is book number six in the William Wisting series set in Norway, leaving five novels untranslated/unpublished in English. I enjoyed this book but find it very frustrating that the only thing we really know about Wisting, his work associates, his daughter etc. etc. is what is to be found in this novel. There are little nuggets about previous cases scattered throughout this book, all of which sound incredibly interesting, all of which we've missed because we don't speak Norwegian. Can someone please start publishing a series with book #1 so we can work our way through the series? Thanks for listening, if you are.
It really is a shame to have missed the first five novels in this series, because Dregs is exactly what I look for when I'm reading a novel of crime fiction. It has a good plot, enough suspects to keep the reader guessing, very little in the way of extraneous subplot, romance or main-character existentialist angst/crisis so that the reader stays focused on the crime and its solution. It is a brilliant police procedural which is all about getting to the root of the mystery at the heart of the story.
Set in Norway, the novel opens with the discovery of a tennis shoe which is rolling around at the edge of the shore. Inside the shoe is a left foot, and much to the dismay of Chief Inspector William Wisting, it is not the first left foot in a shoe to have washed up recently, meaning that the feet do not belong to the same people. Certain characteristics of the shoes lead the group to consider whether or not these shoes have anything to do with four people who have recently gone missing. Three of them are elderly; the fourth, a paranoid schizophrenic, suffers from delusions of being watched and her home secretly searched by some sort of foreign intelligence organization. And things get even more complicated as more shoes come to the shore and a body or two is found. The killer has to be stopped, but this will not be an easy task: before the case can be solved, Wisting and his team are faced with having to unravel decades worth of secrets which someone really want to keep hidden.
This is not a high-adventure, on-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of thriller, nor is it a fast-paced crime fiction with lots of subplots to be resolved. It is a very clean, intelligent and streamlined police procedural, very realistic and credible, with very little in the story to come between the reader and his or her attention to the main plot and the investigation. The author manages to offer an intriguing mystery that hooks the reader from the very first paragraph. He also smoothly integrates his thoughts about important social and political issues and reflects on the nature of imprisonment and punishment through the journalistic work of Wisting's daughter Line. It is very well written, although I must say I would have liked to have been better acquainted with the main characters' backstories before having to start with book six. -sigh-
The lack of a gimmicky serial killer or high-speed thrills may turn off some readers who are used to that sort of thing in their Scandinavian crime fiction, but to me, this book borders on perfect. While those elements are fun, there's nothing like a serious, good old-fashioned police procedural for the true lover of crime and mystery fiction. In Dregs, there is a good mystery, a good plot, and good, well-timed and well-paced progress through the investigation leading to the revelation at the end.
Very highly recommended, and it will work for readers not only of Scandinavian crime fiction but for readers of serious, intelligent police procedurals as well.
crime fiction from Norway