Yours Until Death by Gunnar Staalesen

Originally published as Din, til døden, 1979. Translated from the Norwegian by Margaret Amassian, 1993. Arcadia Books, 2010. 332 Pages. ISBN: 978-1-906413-70-5.

Yours Until Death is the second instalment of the series featuring private investigator Varg Veum. It was written in 1979, originally entitled Din, til døden. Translated from the Norwegian by Margaret Amassian in 1993, Yours Until Death has been republished in 2010 by Arcadia Books.

The action takes place in Bergen. Roar Andresen, a boy of eight and a half, wants to hire the services of Varg Veum, a private investigator, to recover his bike. He has found his name in the phone book. His bike has been stolen by a teenage gang led by Joker, a psychopath, who has terrorised their neighbourhood. Varg, with nothing better to do, decides to help Roar recover his bike. When he meets Wenche Andresen, Roar’s mother and a very attractive woman, he falls in love at first sight. Then things started to get complicated. The body of Jonas Andresen, Wenche’s former husband and Roar’s father, appears stabbed to death in her flat. Wenche, the  obvious suspect, is arrested. Varg is determined to prove her innocence but his life begins to run a serious risk.

Yours Until Death is written in the first person, from the perspective of Varg Veum, a private detective who cannot hide his similarities with his hardboiled American counterparts. He is divorced, a loner, with end-of-month problems to pay his bills. He drowns his sorrows with aquavit. When he feels threatened, he speaks. He is sarcastic, sensible and has a great sense of humour with a point of tenderness than makes him very human. The rest of the characters in the book are very well drawn, the female characters in particular.

The story develops at a rather slow pace until it starts to get momentum and it gets more intense and full of suspense until reaching the final outcome. Easy to read, it has a concise but very effective style. A great translation by Margaret Amassian in my opinion. A novel about the forces of love, lust and passion. I’ve enjoyed it very much. A great read. Strongly recommended. Pity that not all the books in the series are translated.

Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1947. He studied philosophy and started his literary career at 22. In 1977 he became interested in crime novels and created the character of Varg Veum. He has published the following books in the series:

  • Bukken til havresekken, 1977.
  • Din, til døden, 1979.Yours Until Death (English translation by Margaret Amassian, 1993)
  • Tornerose sov i hundre år, 1980.
  • Kvinnen i kjøleskapet, 1981.
  • I mørket er alle ulver grå, 1983. At Night All Wolves Are Grey (English translation by David McDuff, 1986)
  • Hekseringen, 1985.
  • Svarte får, 1988.
  • Falne engler, 1989.
  • Bitre blomster, 1991.
  • Begravde hunder biter ikke, 1993.
  • Skriften på veggen, 1995. The Writing on the Wall. (English translation by Hal Sutcliffe, 2002)
  • De døde har det godt, 1996.
  • Som i et speil, 2002.
  • Ansikt til ansikt, 2004.
  • Dødens drabanter, 2006. The Consorts of Death (English translation by Don Bartlett, 2009)
  • Kalde hjerter, 2008.
  • Vi skal arve vinden, 2010.

Yours Until Death has been reviewed by Simon Clarke at Amazon.com.uk, Peter at Nordic Bookblog and Martin Edwards at Do you write under your own name?

Gunnar Staalesen web page in English

Varg Veum

Arcadia Books

In the footsteps of Varg Veum…

I’ll count this book for my participation on the 2011 Nordic Challenge.