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by Derek B Miller
Faber & Faber, February 2013
304 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 0571294251

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Sheldon Horowitz is an elderly ex-marine, recently widowed and relocated to Oslo where he lives with his granddaughter and her Norwegian husband. Witnessing a dispute on his doorstep, he offers sanctuary to a woman and a six-year old boy, but a man forces entry and the woman is killed. Sheldon manages to conceal the boy, but fears that the child is at risk and goes on the run to keep him safe. A sympathetic policewoman, Sigrid, is working to apprehend the killer and protect Sheldon and the boy, but lack of information about Balkan immigrants complicates her task. Sheldon is handicapped by his age and haunted by visions of his past, and his marine training years ago may be his only advantage in his battle to stay ahead of their pursuers.

NORWEGIAN BY NIGHT is a well-paced and exciting thriller, and a very impressive debut for the author. The various strands of the story: the journey of the old man and boy, the machinations of the Kosovar pursuers, and the attempts by the police to grapple with the problem, are interwoven well so as to sustain the tension throughout, building to a very exciting climax.

Two aspects are of particular interest. Sheldon is eighty-two years old; it is always difficult to sustain belief in a protagonist whose physical capabilities are so diminished. The author takes great care in this respect although some may still find Sheldon's competence difficult to credit. He is very strongly motivated, however, as past episodes in his life play a dominant part in his thoughts, particularly his role in his son's decision to re-enlist for a second term in the Vietnam war and consequent early death. Mental conversations with his wife and other key characters in his life, now dead, may look like incipient dementia to outsiders, but are very real to Sheldon and help him to devise an effective strategy. Key to this is the sergeant who trained him for service in the Korean War.

The other element of note is the challenge to peaceable Norwegian society by the influx of groups from the Balkan conflict, including men hardened by a terrible war for whom violence is a way of life. Sigrid muses on the aspirational ideals which lead Norwegians (and if it comes to it, Europeans generally) to welcome the traumatised from abroad without having the means to properly protect their own citizens from what the newcomers bring with them. After the shock of Anders Behring Brevik, it would seem that this is a matter where some clear policy thinking may be urgently required.

Chris Roberts is a retired manager of shopping centres in Hong Kong, and now lives in Bristol, primarily reading.

Reviewed by Chris Roberts, December 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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