We Shall Inherit the Wind by Gunnar Staalesen
by Amy Pirt
The novel opens in the late nineties. Our alliterative hero, Varg Veum, sits by the bedside of his critically ill partner, Karin. How did she get in this state? Is it because of Varg’s private investigations? And does she recover?
Rewind to the week before, when Varg is summoned by Ranveig Maeland to investigate her husband’s disappearance. They had argued and he had stormed off; so far, just like any other marriage, and just like any other disappearance. However, when no trace of Mons Maeland’s mobile phone or banking records can be discovered, and when it comes to light that Mons was on the cusp of changing his mind about his company’s planned wind farm, Varg begins to fear the worst.
Soon enough, the plot thickens. It comes to light that Mons’ two children, Kristoffer and Else, are on opposing sides of the wind farm debate. Whereas Kristoffer is firmly for the wind farm, Else is, like the zealous preacher Lars Rordal, decidedly against it. This, of course, suggests either child as an accessory to Mons’ disappearance, depending on his views on the wind farm at the time of his disappearance. What’s more, when we discover that Ranveig is, in fact, Mons’ second wife, and the children’s mother, Lea, went missing in the eighties, another motive is suggested for Mons’ own disappearance: revenge. And as with all excellent crime, you will never guess what has really happened.
What I really enjoyed about We Shall Inherit the Wind was Staalesen’s incorporation of religious themes; indeed, these are themes which he has been exploring for more than twenty years, as discussed here. Unlike other proponents of Scandi crime, such as Stieg Larsson, where misogynistic violence is a recurring theme, Staalesen instead places his novel in a greater context, using his character, Lars Rordal, to implicitly ask the question, ‘Who owns the earth – mankind or God?’
‘This land is the work of Our Lord. He’s given it to us, but not so that we let it rot as we’re doing at the moment. It’s an abomination in God’s eyes, and He will strike back with a vengeance. Pestilence, destruction, storms, flames and other catastrophes will smite us all if we don’t change course and learn to live according to God’s word.’
Also, like Larsson, he shows us all sides of a woman: usurper, whore, angel and victim. I very much look forward to what he does next.
Many thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for the review copy.