Review of The Devil’s Wedding Ring by Vidar Sundstøl

Reposted from Reviewing the Evidence with permission

1517902800-01-_sx175_sclzzzzzzz_THE DEVIL’S WEDDING RING
by Vidar Sundstøl and Tiina Nunnally, trans.
University of Minnesota Press, September 2017
271 pages
$25.99
ISBN: 1517902800

Max Fjellanger left Norway and his job as a police officer in a small town in Telemark to become a private investigator in Florida. When he gets word that the man who had been his partner has died, he flies home for the funeral, intending a short visit. But there’s something strange about the man’s death. Why did he go back to the town where they had worked to fill his pockets with stones and throw himself into a lake? Max is also haunted by a memory: the sheriff he reported to refused to let him use an eager tracker dog when they were looking for a missing man – a man who was never found. Before long, he’s postponing his trip back to the States to put his memory to rest.

Tirill Vesterli is a university librarian who reads Swedish crime novels in her spare time after putting her little boy to bed. She finds herself intrigued by unsolved crimes, including the case of a young graduate student who disappeared on Midsummer Eve. Tirill has a theory that the student’s research about an ancient statue in a medieval stave church is the key to her fate, but when she took it to the police they laughed at her. Undaunted, she raises her theory with Max and, since the man Max and his partner had searched for had also been researching the church, they decide to delve deeper.

Sundstøl is known to American readers as the author of the Minnesota Trilogy, set on the north shore of Lake Superior. The first book in the trilogy, LAND OF DREAMS, won the Riverton Prize, Norway’s highest honor for crime fiction. This story is a more modest affair. As in the trilogy, Sundstøl is inspired by landscapes and history. In this case, the stave church and its ancient statue is a well-known historical site in southern Norway, and the story imagines the possibility that ancient rituals involving the statue have been preserved and are still practised in secret in parallel with a tamer re-enactment that is performed for tourists.

Though the ending is overly cinematic, the two detectives are well-drawn and engaging companions on this eerie journey into small-town Norway and into its darker past.

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