A dense literary novel that moves like a thriller among memorable characters on parallel trajectories.
Renberg is a Norwegian writer who has won several prestigious national awards for his fiction and screenwriting. The action in this novel takes place over three days in September among a vivid cast of characters who are revealed to be likable or distasteful as you get to know them. Chapters are written from their individual points of view, and their days move with unstoppable momentum to a scene of insidious violence that defines everyone. Pål is a hapless father of two teenage girls who digs himself into a hole as he tries to erase his online gambling debts. He engages the Hellevag Gang to help solve his problem, and they decide the solution is insurance fraud. The leader of the gang, Jan Inge, fancies himself a CEO of the underworld; Cecilie is Jan's sister, who's having a baby with her boyfriend, Rudi, a manic criminal, metal-music fanatic and a hoot of a man-boy. These three are the comic engines that power the narrative. Rudi spews a nonstop stream-of-consciousness monologue that's always just this side of violence. “Pleasure meeting other people who are sound. There’re not many of us left, brother! I thought you were a tosser, but you’re not—you’re the last man standing. And now I’ll give you a little quiz here—what two metal tracks am I thinking of?” Pål’s daughters, the angst-ridden Tiril and buttoned-up gymnast Malene, link to other high school students who are all struggling to grow up. Teenage angst, adolescent love, the struggles of a single father and the sexually charged lives of a gang of petty crooks all take converging tracks that Renberg uses to portray three days of highly magnified time.
Renberg gives us a novel, rooted in noir softened by comedy, that gets to the serious business of how our shortcomings are all linked.