Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A few words about "The Writing on the Wall" by Gunnar Staalesen

Time constraints preclude a full review, but a few comments are in order:

1) As one might expect from a novel that opens with an off-hand account of a seventy-year-old male judge found dead in a hotel room wearing lingerie, the novel contains a touch of humor here and there.

2) A prostitution ring involving teenage girls is at the heart of the novel. The girls' ages make them interesting characters — they are real characters, in other words: balky, headstrong and vulnerable, and not just passive victims.

3) Staalesen includes a few sex scenes for his protagonist, but the sex is immediately followed by bad news — a report of another death, for example.

4) The novel contains a funny, clever metaphor for oral sex that takes unique advantage of the story's Norwegian setting.

5) The title, a literal translation from the original Norwegian, is not overkill, despite its portentous tone. It refers to the warning of his empire's demise that King Belshazzar of Babylon saw during a banquet in the Book of Daniel. Here, a minor character delivers the ominous words to the protagonist, Varg Veum. I won't give anything away, but the warning resonates.

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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