Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller

norwegian by nightNorwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller
Houghton Mufflin Harcourt, 2013
Source: library copy

Norwegian by Night is the most original crime novel I’ve read this year, and I really enjoyed it. I fell in love with Sheldon Horowitz, an 82 year old American Jew, ex-Marine who fought in the Korean War, who recently moved to Oslo after his wife’s death. His story is sad, funny, and heroic.

The criminal element of the story involves Sheldon hiding a young boy and his mother after his mother was in a violent and loud argument in the apartment upstairs from his, but the crime is not the only centerpiece of the novel.  It’s a novel about an old man who believes he’ll die soon and all of his memories (Sheldon, who suffers from dementia, feels very guilty about his son Saul’s death in the Vietnam War). It’s also a novel about wars and surviving after wars, and it’s a novel about being an outsider.

The characters feel very complete, even the younger characters like Sheldon’s granddaughter Rhea and the more minor police characters who track Sheldon and the young boy. The novel is an interesting mix of an adventure/escape story (Miller quotes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from time to time), memories of war and regrets, and crime. Sheldon is the most original character I’ve come across in my reading in a very long time.

Other positive reviews appear in Mrs. Peabody Investigates, Scandinavian Crime FictionRaven Crime Reads, and Bookreporter.

8 thoughts on “Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller

  1. This sounds like a great book. I had seen the review at Mrs. Peabody’s also. I plan to get it, but will probably wait a while, with so many other books to read. I was a bit concerned about the Alzheimer’s element because there is so much of that in my family and bad memories and such, but I think it will be worth reading anyway.

  2. I’ve just come back from the crime writing festival at Harrogate where I saw Derek on a panel. After hearing him speak I knew I wanted to read his book and this post has just reinforced that.

    • I hope you enjoy it, Rebecca! I decided to keep myself from gushing too much about the book in the review because I didn’t want to ruin any of the pleasures of the story.

  3. I grew up with elderly Jewish relatives in New York City. I know them and I heard their humor and pathos in Sheldon Horowitz. I liked this book very much, thought Sheldon an original all right and the book a real tragicomedy, with war, regrets and a bit of dementia thrown in. All right, more than a little bit, but I have dealt with dementia in my family and this book doesn’t stir up too much pain about that, in my opinion.
    However, it does stir up grief about war, loss of loved ones, guilt and remorse.
    It’s well worth reading. I could not put it down. I was reading passages to friends.

    • Your comment gets at so many of the things I liked about this book, Kathy- thanks. I’m definitely giving the book as a gift to a few friends and family members!

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