Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Little Drummer by Kjell Ola Dahl, translated by Don Bartlett. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Orenda for my digital review copy.
Do check out the post by my tour buddy for today, Monika at Monika Reads.
About the Book
When a woman is found dead in her car in a Norwegian parking garage, everyone suspects an overdose… until a forensics report indicates that she was murdered. Oslo Detectives Frølich and Gunnarstranda discover that the victim’s Kenyan scientist boyfriend has disappeared, and their investigations soon lead them into the shady world of international pharmaceutical deals.
While Gunnarstranda closes in on the killers in Norway, Frølich and Lise, his new journalist ally, travel to Africa, where they make a series of shocking discoveries about exploitation and corruption in the distribution of foreign aid and essential HIV medications.
When tragedy unexpectedly strikes, all three investigators face incalculable danger, spanning two continents. And not everyone will make it out alive…
Format: Paperback (276 pages) Publisher: Orenda
Publication date: 26th May 2022 Genre: Crime
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My first introduction to Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich was in Faithless which I read back in 2017. (I also read the author’s historical crime novel, The Assistant, last year.) Although Little Drummer is the fourth book of the author’s Gunnarstranda and Frølich series to be published in English, it was first published in 2003 – hence the reference to passengers on an airplane watching films on overhead screens! It therefore pre-dates events in Faithless and the other two books in the series published by Orenda – Sister and The Ice Swimmer. (Do try to keep up.) Although you would miss out on learning more about the backstories of Gunnarstranda and Frølich by not having read previous books (personally I remain unsure about the nature of Gunnarstranda’s relationship with Tove), I certainly think Little Drummer can be enjoyed as a standalone crime novel.
Initially an investigation into an apparent suicide that turns out to be murder, and a separate missing persons enquiry, it’s not long before Little Drummer is transformed from police procedural to international thriller as the action moves from Oslo to Kenya. Whilst pursuing separate lines of inquiry Gunnarstranda and Frølich gradually unearth a web of financial corruption involving insider dealing, the use of shell companies and speculation on risky ventures. When individuals are playing for such high stakes, those who might threaten their enterprise are expendable.
Gunnarstranda and Frølich slowly gather together the pieces of what becomes a frustratingly complex jigsaw. As Gunnarstranda remarks, ‘Following clues after a murder is like gathering the fragments of a dream. It’s all about finding pieces of some surrealistic act and trying to make them fit into a comprehensible picture’. It’s a puzzle which sees them forced to co-operate with others whose motives are not always clear. Frølich in particular finds himself in unfamiliar territory – and unexpected company – when he flies to Kenya to follow leads about the missing scientist.
What I really enjoy about the books is the partnership between Gunnarstranda and Frølich, both on a personal and professional level. Frølich, whilst pondering on his history of failed relationships, always keeps an eye out for his boss, trying to persuade Gunnarstranda to modify his unhealthy habits (even hiding his tobacco at one point). Little Drummer finds Gunnarstranda in particularly melancholy mood, pondering on his own mortality as his lifestyle shows signs of taking its toll. As he admits, he’s ‘a neurotic, work-obsessed, socially dysfunctional man with poor self-knowledge’, not to mention a chain smoker and a whisky drinker.
Although Gunnarstranda and Frølich’s investigation goes to some dark places, exposing some of the inequalities that exist in the world, there are also moments of humour. For example, when Frølich observes a guest at his hotel who is so drunk he passes out with his face in a plate of spaghetti or, my absolute favourite, the incessant, inane chatter of Frølich’s mother and her friend Edna when he gives them a lift in his car.
With its combination of intricate plot and exciting moments of drama, Little Drummer is a skilfully-crafted crime thriller that will keep you turning the pages.
In three words: Tense, dark, compelling
Try something similar: The Dark Flood by Deon Meyer
About the Author
One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published thirteen novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.