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DAHL Kjell Ola

Norway

L’homme dans la vitrine (Gallimard, 2007)

Kjell Ola DAHL
©Jo Michael

Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Norway. In 2000, he stopped teaching to write although he gives it up sometimes to look after his tractor and his fields.
After 96°, L’homme dans la vitrine is his second novel published in the Serie Noire. It is the first of Gunnarstranda and Frølich’s investigations. You will be able to read more of them in Dah’s fourth book : Le quatrième homme, to be published in the autumn 2008.

In french


Bibliography :

  • L’homme dans la vitrine (Gallimard, 2007)

A brief summary of L’Homme dans la vitrine :

Reidar Folke Jespersen is an old cantankerous man suffering from cancer. He is 79 and is married with the beautiful Ingrid who is 25 years younger. One Friday morning, Reidar spies his wife leaving the house to meet her lover who is, her former dance teacher. Then he goes to see his two brothers. The three of them own one third each of an antiques business. The two brothers want to sell the business to have more free time but Reidar does not agree and leaves slamming the door. After that, he calls his wife at her lover’s home ordering her to stop this love affair immediately. That afternoon, he goes to the shop stockroom. Wearing a suit, he drinks a glass of sherry with a beautiful young woman listening to Schubert music. When he goes back home, a man is waiting for him in front of his building. They both fight ferociously and Reidar slaps the other guy before going home and eating a family dinner in a tense atmosphere. During the night, Ingrid wakes up agitated. She feels the presence of someone in the flat but the most important thing is that Reidar is missing ! The next morning, the detectives Gunnarstranda et Frølich arrive at the antiques shop. Reidar’s corpse is lying in the window ; naked, drained of his blood after having received a bayonet blow. A red string is tied around his neck. The corpse has a wound on the side, 3 crosses are drawn with a marker pen on his forehead as a letter and three numbers : J 195. There is no sign of a burglary. A long investigation begins for the two detectives ; there are so many leads that they don’t know where to begin. Indeed, Reidar was not a very loved man. Furthermore, the key to the crime is buried in the past ; not a very glorious one that dated from the 2nd WW and that Reidar wanted to hide absolutely.

L’homme dans la vitrine is a detective novel, we are following the methodical investigations of the two detectives working to find the truth. K.O. Dahl uses all the classic means of the genre, examinations and cross-examinations, some ambiguous people who can easily feel guilty about something. The author manipulates us all along the novel, distilling plausible developments and giving us false leads that fit into each other like Russian dolls. The characters are dense, their psychology well developed and the author plays with the dark palette of human feelings (desire, thwarted love, revenge, concealment, ghosts from the past). The tone is realistic, pettifogging and puts L’homme dans la vitrine in the whodunit category. Of course we also find the northern touch that confirms the originality of these thrillers coming from the cold countries. We follow the every day life of the two detectives, especially Gunnarstranda’s who tries to forget human mediocrity, taking care of his gold fish after the nightfall, sipping a whiskey. The investigation takes place during winter and thus snow, frost and cold envelop us right from the very first pages. Then, without telling us the entire truth, the end of the investigation is a means as well for the author to study Norway’s past and to wonder about the responsibility of its citizens during this dark period and about the fascination of some people concerning the national-socialist ideology. Finally, L’homme dans la vitrine is an entertaining and dense thriller that will satisfy all the lovers of realistic detective novels.