review · Translated · U.S.

The Ravens by Vidar Sundstøl

ravensThe Ravens by Vidar Sundstøl, translated by Tiina Nunnally

University of Minnesota Press, April 2015

Book 3 of Minnesota Trilogy

Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.

The Minnesota Trilogy is a bit different than what I expected. Sundstøl is a Norwegian author who lived on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota for some time, and when he returned to Norway he wrote this trilogy of books focusing on US Forest Service policeman Lance Hansen who discovers the dead body of a Norwegian tourist and kayaker at Baraga’s Cross. The books cover Hansen’s unofficial investigation: unofficial both because he was a witness, because the US Forest Service does not have jurisdiction over the murder inquiry, and finally, because he goes off-grid after the second book because he suspects his brother is the murderer.

It’s also an unexpected trilogy for me because the books delve so heavily into Lance’s obsession with local history, both Norwegian immigrants and Ojibwe ancestors: it’s a crime story that’s very much about the small communities that Hansen inhabits and visits and their history.

After a very brief and thriller-esque installment in book 2, The Ravens feels more like a sort of police procedural or amateur investigator story (because Lance’s investigation was informal and not sanctioned by the police). The plot wasn’t nearly as twisty as I’m used to reading, and in that sense the solving of the mystery was a bit of a let-down for me. It’s still a devastating outcome in many ways, but the narrative arc of this book wasn’t as fast-paced as I like.

It’s a trilogy I’m glad I read both because of the setting–it’s always refreshing to read a good book that doesn’t take place on the East or West coasts– and because it’s quite different from other crime novels in terms of pacing and focus. While it’s quite slow and meditative in parts, it’s also a thriller in the second book.

I’ve reviewed the entire trilogy:

 

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6 thoughts on “The Ravens by Vidar Sundstøl

  1. I actually have the first book in this series. Bought it after Barbara reviewed it at her blog. I didn’t know you read the entire trilogy. Will go back and read.

  2. I think I heard of this first here, and I bought the first one but haven’t read it yet. I really like the setting and look forward to reading it.

    1. Hope you enjoy it, Tracy. I’ve lived in Michigan 13 years and haven’t seen Lake Superior yet, but it’s on the list of summer excursions!

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