Big Sister by Gunnar Staalesen – A review


‘Reidar Rongved was around forty with dark-blond hair and stikingly thick glasses. It struck me that that might have been why he had chosen the bass: the instrument was big enough for him to see.’

(Big Sister, Gunnar Staalesen p197)

Big Sister is a book which is concerned with a missing person’s case and just as imporantly for fans of Varg Veum a big insight into our private investigator’s past.  My first impressions of Big Sister were that the reader gets to experience quite a lot of locations outside of Bergen, gets to hear some fantastistic stories from the jazz world and gets to know the shadier side of internet use amongst young people.

Varg is visited one day by a woman who claims to be his half sister. She gives him the job of finding her 19 year old god daughter who has vanished into thin air.  Varg jumps on it and finds himself at the centre of something very sinister. Furthermore as the case develops Varg discovers further personal information concerning his family which causes him to question his own past.  It is a great story. Contemporary, written with grace, wit, grit and style.

One of the things that I particularly love about Staalesen’s writing is the darkness contrasted with humour.  Often it is observational (such as the quote at the start of this piece), sometimes it takes place in conversations.  These exchanges and observations put a smile on your face as you read.  For example Varg in conversation with a doctor:

V: How old am I?

D: He examined my face with concern. Then looked down at the card in his hand. ‘ Sixty-one according to our information.’

V:Thank you

D:Couldn’t you remember?

V: Yes, Its just that I feel closer to a hundred.’

Staalesen’s Varg Veum books can be read as stand alone stories (just enough background is included in each book) and I recommend you read them.  I particularly recommend them if you are a reader who enjoys a series.  You can really get your teeth into his books and you can also indulge in some television watching too as some have been adaped for the screen.  They even have a statue of Varg in Bergen if you want an excuse to visit Norway. Staalesen is an accomplished writer and the latest books published here by Orenda and translated by Don Bartlett are classics. I strongly encourage you to get to know Varg Veum, Bergen and Staalesen’s work.  Start with Big Sister. It will be in your bookshop this month.

This post is part of a blog tour. If you want to read others impressions of Big Sister check out the blogs mentioned on the blog tour poster above.  You can also check out other pieces on our blog here by typing ‘Gunnar’ into the search box on our blog home page.



  1. I have looked at reading this author, but not gotten around to it. Your review might just be the thing to make me source the book as soon as possible.

    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting Forestwood. Hope you enjoy the books!

  2. Thanks! We’ve reviewed 4 of his books here over the years. All good. If you use the search function and type ‘Gunnar’ you will see them all and it may help you make up your mind where to start. Thanks for reading and interacting with the blog!

  3. […] Sister has been reviewed at Cafe thinking, Euro Crime, Nordic Noir, Crime Fiction Lover, Reviewing the evidence, acrimereadersblog, Crime Review, International Noir […]

  4. […] can check out more of Gunnar’s work here, here and here .  This review is part of a blog tour so if you wish to read some other reviews before you read […]

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