Big Sister

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

This was the first book I've read by Gunnar Staalesen, and I really enjoyed the book ... enough that I want to look into finding some of the earlier books with the same main character - Varg Veum.. The book was translated into English, and is set in Norway, so the reader no only gets some mystery and intrigue but also some history along with way. The book did not disappoint .... murder, a cover-up, meeting a long lost family member and all wrapped up by a local PI.
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A solid 4 stars.
Thanks to Trafalgar Square Publishing for sending me this eARC through NetGalley.  I visited Bergen, Norway in 2009 and our guide recommended this series by Staalsen.   I purchased the only book available in English The Writing on the Wall and enjoyed it.  This book has Varg Veum taking a case from a half sister that he meets for the first time.  She asks him to search for her missing goddaughter.  His search leads him into an unsolved rape from many years before. There were several unexpected plot twists.   I read this book in 3 days.
One quote:
Rain. "In Bergen, November is the month of the grey monk.  The snow comes later.  The sun makes a guest appearance or two.  Most days are grey and more often than not it rains.  Not summer's short bursts; not October's long downpours, which flood the streets and cellars because the relevant authorities haven't cleared the autumn leaves this year, either; nor spring's refreshing rain, which washes away the remnants of winter and makes my town clean again.  In November, rain is the personification of gloom...."
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This was my first "Varg" novel= and gosh I'm sorry to have missed the earlier ones.  This is great Norwegian thriller/investigative fiction, with an intriguing hero in Varg Veum, who in this installment discovers there's a branch of his family he was previously unaware of.  The search for Emma, the goddaughter of his half sister, takes him into the world of bikers, a serious problem in Norway.  This is also the story of a 60 year old man who is told that there's more to his life history than anyone told him and Norma, the older sister, is definitely well written.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  I'm hoping to see more of this series available in the US.
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Sometimes translated books are spectacular (check out all our previously reviewed ones on this blog!) and sometimes they loose something in the translation. This book seems like it will be the latter when it starts, but you soon realize it the manner of writing, not the translating, and that it's a 'Norwegian thing'. Having done genealogy research in Norwegian books and records, I know they can lean toward being dry, tough in person, my cousins have been anyting but! So keeping that in mind with reading this book, I quickly realized to just stay with the book, to see how it played out and was soon GLAD I did!

This book seems to be straightforward. But when the bodies start piling up, and there doesn't seem to be a straight story, or fact, around, Varg soon realizes e has taken on a case that has more than just a simple answer, and that may give him answers he didn't want to know about is own life and family history! The convulted twists and turns will have you stopping and saying "wait did I miss that clue?", and then realizing like Varg, things were not as they seemed! About halfway through the book it turns into a roller coaster of a read and I can't wait to go back and read the previous books in the series!

If you're looking for a new author/series to take up this Fall, this just might be the one you're looking for!
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Three girls - one vanished, one missing literally overnight, one sure as hell isn't answering any questions.
Varg Veum is surprised on the job my his half sis Norma Johanne Bakkevik who offers him an offer he may not be able to refuse.
A 19 yo god daughter trainee nurse has gone missing after moving out of apartment.
Cover ups are involved, Internet stalkers are apparent, death may be imminent.
Wow! This has everything a new thriller should and it won't disappoint by Team Orenda!
Thank you Gunnar Staalesen, Team Orenda, NetGalley, and Aldiko for this ARC in exchange for this honest review.
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I love nothing better than a Varg Veum book. It's like catching up with an old friend. A somewhat flawed friend who you always worry about but who always seems to pull through.

There are no bad or even mediocre bad Varg Veum books. There just isn't. And this is no exception. 

Great ending after lots of twists and turns.
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I thought that this story Gunnar told was one of the most enjoyable books I've read this year.  It has so many twists it was hard to believe without finding characters that had no backbones.  It starts with Varg being visited by an older woman who stated that she was his half-sister and had to find her missing god daughter.  With no leads, he starts out by finding out about a rape case that was in 1975.  You won't believe what happens with this, so many characters and people that come out of the woodwork with this case.  Motorcycle gangs, bereaved people, you can bet they are the people who might have done something.  The story goes on from there with people getting killed under unknown circumstances.  Things don't seem as they should.  You'll like what happens and believe me it twists in many directions.  I gave it 4 stars out of 5.
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A sort of typical Scanda mystery- not so self consciously American type detectives, so more of a social conscience than police. 

Someone he know of, but not about, a half sister comes seeking help finding a missing woman, With various complications, this missing person problem could be connected to a nasty and unsolved crime of many years past. Not too coincidentally family relationships, secrets and violence may have led to this current situation.

Investigation carries more than risk of personal safety, which is compromised by the bad biker guys, but revelations about dad, abuse, assault and more secrets. 
I hd not read this author before and while I did follow the story, it may have been better if I had read others in the series before this one.

A good read, interesting and always enjoy reading about life in Norway. 

I suggest, good read.
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Staalesen provides another great Scandinavian thriller! Keeps you reading until the final page with a stunning conclusion.
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There are things I like a lot about Varg Veum, Staalesen’s long-running PI hero. He’s somewhat modeled on the American hardboiled tradition – a tarnished hero who goes down mean streets, cracking wise – but he’s also Norwegian, so instead of being a former cop, he’s a former social worker. That said, I’ve never totally clicked with this series, and I’m not sure why. This was as enjoyable an entry as any I’ve read. Varg has a client who wants him to take on a missing persons case. But it turns out she, herself, is a bit of a missing person – a half-sister he never knew he had. The missing girl is her god-daughter, and she has vanished after moving to the big city. She had previously sought out her estranged father, who turns out to be a piece of work as Varg retraces her steps. There’s a biker gang and an act of violence to be uncovered from the past, a murder or two, and another family surprise for Varg before it’s all over.
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This novel feathers the work of Varg Veum, Staalesen's Bergen-based social worker turned PI. He is around 60 years old, fit but obviously not in special-forces kind of shape. He does get into a fair bit of trouble, suffers a major concussion, but recovers quite quickly. The trigger for his multi-faceted investigation is a visit from an older sister born out of wedlock and given up for adoption. While he had been aware of her existence, he had not ever contacted her. Once over the initial shock, he starts enjoying getting to know her. She had come to ask him to help find the daughter of a friend who had moved from her island home to Bergen on the Norwegian coast to study in a nursing program and has suddenly disappeared after moving out of the apartment she shared with two other students. Varg's sister is not the only big sister in the book and the other secondary "big sister" plot takes Varg on the investigation of a long-ago sexual assault and gets him in trouble with a criminalized biker gang. In the end, he does find the missing woman, but loses his newly found sister to an accident, finds that he may also be an illegitimate child and uncovers a strange website that leads unmoored desperate people to make suicide pacts.
This book was a fun read with many twists and turns, interesting well developed characters (with warts and all), and a fascinating social context.
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Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to preview this book. Only my second book in this series, but very enjoyable. Slow to get going, but a very good ending. Strongly recommended.
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Thank you NetGalley and Orenda Books for the eARC.
Varg Veum, the Bergen based investigator, is approached by his half-sister Norma, who he knew about, but never met.  She wants help: her goddaughter Emma is missing.  And so starts a new chapter in Varg's life; a case that a also sheds some surprising light on his family, specifically his mother. He's now in his early 60's and seems more easy in his skin, a little less cantankerous.
As he interviews her roommates and family, he realizes Emma's disappearance might be linked to a horrific crime committed over 20 years ago, probably by her estranged father.  Once again he gets involved with a biker gang, almost losing his life in the process.  But still, there is no sign of Emma and what happened to her.
This was my 2nd book in the series after Wolves in the Dark and I liked the evolved Varg, mentally he's in a better place, but his investigative skills are as sharp as ever.  Mr. Staalesen is a terrific author and the translation by Don Bartlett is impeccable.  Big Sister has a surprising and thoughtful ending - I can't wait for the next one in the series!
This excellent book can definitely be read as a standalone, although I was happy I read the previous one for the backstory.
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Bergen based investigator Varg Veum is at a stage in his life where nothing much surprises him. So when a new client introduces herself as his half sister, it’s almost enough to make a guy reach for the Aquavit. 

After tracking him down, Norma Bakkevik wasted no time with small talk. She wants him to find her teenage god-daughter, Emma Haglund. She left a troubled home life & moved to Bergen several weeks ago but no one has heard from her since. Varg has many questions. About Emma….and about Norma & their mother. 

His search for Emma requires dogged determination. Her circle is small & it’s not long before his questions lead to her estranged (and piece of….work) father & his new family. There’s a reason  he left Emma & her mother all those years ago & it’s not very pleasant. Varg has to wonder if a decades old crime has ties to Emma’s disappearance.

What starts as a simple missing persons case soon evolves into so much more. Varg’s digging opens old wounds & brings unwanted attention from those who’d prefer he left things alone. But it’s information about his own past & a sudden shocking loss that leave Varg reeling. 

This is an engrossing & intricate read that works on a couple of different levels. You have his current case which initially moves slowly as information & characters are presented. At the halfway mark, the pace picks up considerably as the investigation takes a dangerous turn. There are some surprising reveals ahead as pieces fall into place although the author saves the best twist for the final chapter.

But there is a deeper theme that runs through every thread of the story. Family…not just the one you’re born into but the one you create. Norma introduces Varg to a side of his family he never knew & it forces him to reexamine his parents in a new light. Like Emma, he has to decide how much he’ll allow the past to intrude on the present. 

One of the great things about a long running series is the relationship you develop with the MC. They age with you & every time I pick up one of these, I feel like I’m catching up with an old friend. Varg is in his 60’s now & a little worn around the edges. But on a personal level, he’s in a better place. He’s less impulsive & more inclined to use brains over brawn to solve his cases. He’s even attempting a bit of a fitness regime (more stairs, less Aquavit). He’s always been the thinking man’s detective & the personal ramifications from this case ensure he’ll have plenty to ponder as he waits for the next client to walk through his door.
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