Varg Veum – the dogged investigator

Wolves at the door by Gunnar Staalesen

On a dark January night a car drives at high speed towards private investigator Varg Veum, and comes very close to killing him. Veum is certain that it isn´t an accident, but who is after him and why? Has the deaths of two men just released from prison anything to do with it? Both the men were convicted for child pornography and sexual assault, and since Veum was involved in the case he suspects that he’s on someone´s death list. Fearing for his life, he resumes investigating the old case, interviewing the victims of abuse and delving deeper into the brutal crimes. And soon he discovers a past that is darker and more disturbing than he could imagine.

Wolves at the Door is the latest installment in the Varg Veum series by Norwegian crime fiction author Gunnar Staalesen and as usual it takes place in the author´s home town Bergen on the Norwegian west coast. Staalesen is writing suspenseful crime novels, but he also uses crime as a vehicle for social criticism. Wolves at the Door may be an uncomfortable read at times, as it´s dealing with child abuse. It is dark, realistic and sadly believable, but also truly gripping and full of suspense. It puts a spotlight on the failings of the criminal justice system and of the society, highlighting issues like sex trafficking and the effects of abuse. The author explores the human psyche and demonstrates how all of the characters who are connected to the crimes are affected by what happened. Not just the victims, but also their relatives and friends.

Varg Veum (Varg means “wolf” in Norwegian ) is a complex but engaging hero or rather anti-hero and he is probably the only fictional private detective who has a background as social worker. He was specializing in child care, but his experiences led him to become resigned about the ability of the state to help the many abandoned and abused children he encountered. His constant conflicts with authorities made him start a new career as a private investigator. He appears calm and relaxed, but he persists until whoever he is questioning reveals their secrets. Being an ex-social worker he is well acquainted with life´s darker side and behind his rough exterior hides a warm-hearted and sensitive person, who searches for justice and truth for those most vulnerable.

Gunnar Staalesen reveals the background of his Varg Veum series in this video interview by crime fiction critic Dennis Broe:

You will probably appreciate Wolves at the Door more if you have read the earlier books in the series. Varg Veum is an engaging character, who you will understand and like if you are aware of what has happened to him in the past.

Or if you prefer, you may watch the films. Twelve of the novels starring Varg Veum has been filmed since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim as the lead character. You will find an overview of all the films starring Varg Veum at TMDb.