Blog Tour: Mirror Image, Gunnar Staalesen

Book Review: Mirror Image, A Varg Veum Novel, Gunnar Staalesen, translated by Don Bartlett

Mirror Image, Gunnar Staalesen

Mystery/Thriller: Mirror Image, A Varg Veum Novel, Gunnar Staalesen, translated by Don Bartlett

Blog Tour August 9, 2023


Norwegian private investigator Varg Veum is approached by a woman whose sister and brother-in-law are missing. She is reluctant to contact the police, since it may just be that the couple decided to go on a vacation without telling her their plans. The sisters are not close, but she has been trying to get hold of her sibling for a couple of weeks without success.


While Veum is trying to find the missing couple, he gets a call from a journalist asking him to gather information about a mysterious cargo ship. Owned by the TWO company, the ship is suspected of transporting toxic waste to Africa. The journalist is pursuing that story, but she needs some information about the ship’s Norwegian port. She also wants information about a mysterious container that was loaded onto the ship in North Africa.


Veum quickly realizes there may be a connection between the two cases. The missing husband had worked for TWO, abruptly quitting just before the couple disappeared. Did the mysterious ship and its toxic cargo or unknown container contents influence his decision to leave? Did people who wanted the secrets of the ship to remain secret make him and his wife disappear? Were they fleeing to avoid some kind of threat?


Veum also wants to know why the details of a very cold case also keep turning up during his investigation. Decades earlier, the mother of the two women had died with her lover in a car accident that was deemed a “death pact.” Still, this accident from long ago seems to have echoes into the present, and Veum does not think he can answer the questions surrounding this recent disappearance without resolving the questions that still swirl around the previous case.


Gunnar Staalesen wrote his first “Varg Veum” novel almost 50 years ago. Now, Orenda publishing is having them translated into English and introducing this Norwegian legend to a new audience. Despite the book having been written over 20 years ago (and being set around 10 years before that), the plot and twists remain fresh. Veum is a dogged investigator, though arguably a poor businessman. He will not leave any stone unturned in his search for the truth. Unfortunately for his portfolio, he is not nearly as assiduous in collecting payment for his troubles. He also refuses to take cases involving marital infidelity. Since spying on unfaithful spouses is a huge part of many P.I.’s income, he will not access the resources jilted lovers are willing to spend in order to catch their partners “in the act.”


Sarcastic, inflexible, and determined, Veum’s personality is brought forth in the fine translation by Don Bartlett. Capturing the nuances of personality and culture that may be taken for granted in one language and communicating those into a different language is both a skill and an art. Bartlett’s translation brings Veum to life and sets him into the context of his community and his country. 


My knowledge of Norway is sadly lacking (assuming that the Epcot version is incomplete). In recent years, particularly thanks to Orenda, I have had the privilege of reading several Norwegian and other Scandinavian authors translated into English. I won’t pretend that has made me any kind of expert on that part of the world, but books have a way of opening our minds to new thoughts and sneaking cultural tidbits into the hearts of those of us unlikely to ever travel there. This gift cannot be measured.


Our thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for our copy of Mirror Image, provided so we could give an honest review. The opinions here are solely those of Scintilla. For other perspectives on this novel, check out the other bloggers on this tour.

Mirror Image, Gunnar Staalesen

Book Review: Mirror Image, A Varg Veum Novel, Gunnar Staalesen, translated by Don Bartlett

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