We Shall Inherit the Wind BF AW.inddDid you know that in the 2013 peace index – a measure of peacefulness among 162 nations according to 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators – Norway was ranked 11th, since then it’s slipped six places to seventeenth in the 2015 index. This is probably not surprising considering the rise in popularity of it’s crime fiction. Thus bringing us on to the second book of this month, it’s ‘We shall Inherit The Wind’ – by Gunnar Staalesen, published in June by Orenda books (

Ten pages into this book I was thinking “this guy is copying Steig Larsson”.  The atmosphere, characters and settings were all reminiscent of Larsson’s “Girl with a Dragon Tatoo” Millenium trilogy. A quick Google search revealed that I was very wrong. If anything, it’s the other way ‘round. Steig Larsson was copying Gunnar Staalesen.

My mistake was one that no Norwegian would make. Hailed as one of the fathers of Nordic Noir, Gunnar Staalesen has been

Gunnar Staalesen

Gunnar Staalesen

writing successful detective thrillers since 1977 and is Norway’s answer to Raymond Chandler. His series of novels featuring the private investigator Varg Veum have sold millions of copies and spawned twelve film adaptations. However, only six of these novels have been translated into English – which probably explains why he is relatively unknown in this part of the world. If the calibre of ‘We Shall Inherit the Wind’ is anything to go by, that’s definitely our loss.

When we first meet Varg Veum he’s 65 and at the hospital bedside of his long-term girl friend, Karin (yes, girl friend – like Philip Marlowe, Veum has a problem with commitment!). She’s seriously ill and it’s all his fault. Flipping back in time, the story of how he has gotten into this predicament unfolds.

Although Veum has a rule against taking on marital investigations, as a favour to Karin he agrees to investigate the disappearance of her friend’s husband, Mons Maeland. Karin’s friend, Ranveig, is Maeland’s second wife, his first wife having disappeared, assumed drowned, over 15 years previously. Prior to his own disappearance, Maeland was evaluating a plan to erect wind turbines on an island in the rugged, scenic landscape of Gulen in the western fjords. Needless to say, this plan is vociferously opposed by local environmentalists, including Maeland’s own daughter, and supported by local businesses and politicians. Against this backdrop of feuding families and communities, Veum unearths more secrets than anyone involved wants.

While not as compelling or as gritty as ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo’, this is an absorbing story with sufficient suspense and twists to engage and maintain the reader’s interest.  The characterisation of Veum himself is a big part of the story’s appeal. A non-conformist outsider, he says-it-like-he-sees-it, often inappropriately and to his own – and others – detriment.  But he’s no Philip Marlowe. There’s little black-and-white moralizing here. The complexities and nuances of situations and characters are explored and readers are often left to decide for themselves who, if any, are the good guys and bad guys.


But the real mother lode of this book is not the plot, Veum’s characterisation or the nuanced approach to social and personal issues. What brings it out of the realm of yet another professionally executed detective story are the descriptions of the west Norway landscape and its communities. I’ve a fairly long list of places to visit on my bucket list and, up until now, Norway wasn’t on it. But Staalesen’s word pictures of the rugged, wild, bleak beauty of the Gulen area has made me re-think.  I would have loved if a map had been included in the book so that I could follow Veum’s journeys among the fjords and islands.

Equally beguiling are the portrayals of the ancillary characters living in this area. They inhabit west Norway in this book, but I’ve met them in the west of Ireland.  You thought that answering a question with a question was a unique characteristic of people from Kerry? If so, there’s a brilliant description of a Kerry woman living on an island in Gulen. Or maybe you thought that finding out that the person you sat beside on the bus to Connemara is related to your first cousin was a uniquely Irish experience? Well, they’ve imported this phenomenon to west Norway too.  I definitely need to go there – it’ll be just like home!

I have one quibble with Staalesen’s portrayal of Veum, though. In one scenario, Veum is sexually propositioned by an attractive, high-flying businesswoman who’s half his age. This smacks of tired old-fashioned male fantasy to me. Or is it a key difference between life in Norway and Ireland? One thing for sure, if it happened in Ireland it’s unlikely that the opportunity would be turned down!

This minor quibble apart, I’ll be looking out for the next two installments Where Roses Never Die and No One Is So Safe in Danger promised for 2016 and 2017 from Orenda Books . Will we found out what 190344 means?

Hat’s off to the translator, Don Bartlett. There wasn’t a moment where I was conscious of this being a translation from the original Norweigan. It read as if it was written in English.



The Uninvited CvrWhere were you in 1977? Okay so if you are under the age of 38 then it’s a redundant question, me I was in my last year of residing full time in the UK, before my Irish parents decided to return home to Dublin taking myself and my two sisters with them. It was the year of the Queens Silver Jubilee; people were celebrating with nationwide celebrations and street parties. Not to far up the road from where I was living in Buckinghamshire, a family in Enfield in North London where being terrorized by a malevolent spirit. While in South Wales another family where being terrorized an altogether different entity or entities. This is the subject of this month’s book; it’s The Uninvited by Clive Harold.

First published in 1979, by the W.H. Allen Publishing Company which eventually went on to become Virgin Publishing. The book tells the story of the Coombs family, who live on Ripperston Farm on the south Wales coast over looking St. Brides Bay between Pembroke and Fishguard. What started as a close encounter with a large glowing orb which chased Pauline Coombs home in her car one cold clear January night, escalated to shorting out numerous TV’s and a couple of cars, finally culminating in a numerous visitations by men in silvery glowing space suits. There are also ‘Men In Black’ who drove around in a mysterious large silver car  and the strange, almost hysterically funny,  frequent mass teleportation of nearly one hundred cows over a distance of almost mile. That’s not forgetting the radiation burns suffered by the family members and the abductions too. This all took place over the course of a year between January 1977 and January 1978.

The book is written by journalist Clive Harold who was commissioned by an English magazine in 1977 to write a feature on UFO stories to coincide with the release of the film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I came across the book last week while on a well deserved holiday in Devon. I’d brought a couple of books with me to read and review, but while casually perusing the bookshelves of our rented cottage in the town of Colyton, I stumbled upon this book. It was the blurb which caught me straight away, with its opening line “It began with a bright light high in the night sky…” and “This story is true, you’ll wish it wasn’t”. Now being a bit of a paranormal fan and a believer in the unexplained, it didn’t need much more to get me to pick it up and dive right in.


This book is the scariest thing I’ve read in ages and had me jumping at the slightest noise, while reading it late at night in a deathly quiet house in the middle of the East Devon countryside. For all I knew I could have been 200 miles away in South Wales. One thing that occurred to me was, why has this not been adapted for TV like other strange occurrences from this time such as the recently aired Enfield Haunting on Sky, starring Timothy Spall and Matthew McFadden. Having read this book, I’m convinced it’s an ideal candidate for a TV adaptation.

As for the Author Clive Harold, my research claims he wrote other books, but there is no record anywhere of any other book. As to what happened to Clive, there are uncorroborated reports that he was at school with HRH Prince Charles and that they met up when the prince visited the offices of The Big Issue in 1997 where  Clive was working as a seller.

Pauline coombs and daughters

Pauline Coombs and her two daughters Layann and Joanne, looking out of a radiation burned window – image from book

Also very little is known of what became of the Coombs family – Billy, his wife Pauline and their four children, Clinton, Kieron, Layann and Joanne in the intervening years. It’s over 35 years since the events of this book and they come across in the book as being rather innocent and publicity shy for fear of being made laughing a laugh stock of.  Their names and images pop up on UFO and Unexplained forums and sites to this day but as to their whereabouts, that’s almost as big a mystery as to who or what visited them and their neighbours in 1977.

There are two types of people in the world, the believers in the unexplained and the skeptics, If  you are a believer like me, then you’ll immediately go on to Amazon to buy one of the few remaining copies out there. While the skeptics may scoff and walk on by.  However, those liberal and open-minded persuasion will enjoy this well written and utterly convincing story from yesteryear, which takes a very serious and non judgmental look at a topic which even today produces evidence which begs the question is there life beyond the stars and have we been visited by aliens?

So if you suffer from nightmares easily, this may not be your cup of tea as this will keep you awake long after you’ve put it down or in my case finished it  in one sitting. Once you have, then definitely  phone home to make sure everyone is okay.