I very rarely read anything even vaguely crimey so bear with me here!
The hero of Norwegian by Night is Sheldon Horowitz, a grouchy eighty-two year old New Yorker who has recently arrived in Norway. You see he is newly widowed and his granddaughter, fearing for his mental state, insists he move in with her and her Scandinavian husband. Part of the reason I enjoyed this so much was because of the wonderfully entertaining Sheldon, a wily ex-marine with an answer for everything. (A particularly good scene has him literally answering back to all his granddaughter’s accusations of dementia.) The story takes off when he lets an Eastern European woman and her young son into his house to shelter from her abusive partner. From here things take a dark turn and Sheldon and the boy find themselves on the run from a crew of Balkan gangsters with the police in pursuit.
Part of the joy of the book is the way Sheldon is able overcome his limitations during the chase, making the whole thing seem eminently doable. Sheldon’s body is not what it used to be and he ends up with some very creative solutions to his physical problems. I also think Derek Miller perfectly captures the way that Sheldon’s Judaism is crucial to his identity and how hard it is to explain that to an outsider. What I did not love was the cartoonishly violent ending that lacked the dark humour that made the book so special. Also the way characters seemed to be constantly criticising a liberal response to refugees. A whole bunch of people in the book seemed to take issue with a country letting in dispossessed populations and having to deal with the consequences of not everyone being socially and financially well off. I mean it was a bit more justified than that but it came out over and over again to the point where it became uncharacteristic and stilted.
But overall the book, like its hero, was funny, witty, sometimes philosophical, often action packed and very good fun. Call it a mystery, a thriller, a family drama, a dark comedy, I would definitely recommend it.