The Human Flies

Written by Hans Olav Lahlum

Review written by Gwen Moffat

Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.


The Human Flies
Macmillan
RRP: £14.99
Released: June 5th, 2014
Pbk

Translated from the Norwegian (by Kari Dickson) this is as far removed from Scandi-noir as from Christie whom it seeks to emulate. Historical and traditional it starts with a locked room mystery and young D.I. Kristiansen, known as K2 (reference to scaling heights) who investigates the case solo. As a cop that is;  he has the crucial assistance of a wheelchair-bound princess who plays Holmes to his Watson.

The first murder is in an apartment block housing eight adults: a closed community of suspects. The drama is played out against a fog of memories and events of World War 2 when Norway was occupied by the Germans and Sweden was neutral. There was a powerful Resistance movement in Norway with all its potential for betrayal and atrocities; there was the long mountainous frontier traversed by escapees, their guides, their hunters and killers. Now, over two decades later, survivors of both sides: Swedes and Norwegians (Americans too, who operated clandestinely, forerunners of the CIA) – all are chickens come home to roost in 1968 Oslo, and in some cases to take revenge

The narrative plods, which is curious when you consider that the distance events that spawned this dull sixties mystery were so shocking: the Gestapo at the door in the small hours, the refugees hidden in the cellar praying the baby wouldn’t cry, pistols cocked as the last desperate resort…. The author has attempted to marry suspense and horror with a classical whodunit and the result doesn’t blend. Disappointing.

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