Norwegian by Night, by Derek B. Miller

book cover

book cover

What the blurb says: “Eighty-two years old, and recently widowed, ex-Marine Sheldon Horowitz has grudgingly moved to Oslo with his granddaughter and her Norwegian husband. When Sheldon witnesses the murder of a neighbour in his apartment complex, he rescues the woman’s six-year-old son and decides to run. Pursued by the Balkan gang responsible for the murder and the Norwegian police, he has to rely on training from over half a century before to try and keep the boy safe. Against a strange and foreign landscape, this unlikely couple, who can’t speak the same language, start to form a bond that may just save them both.”

Beautifully crafted, this novel is a real treat.

Sheldon is a man haunted by his past, by the people he has loved (and lost) and, having uprooted from New York to Oslo, is more than a little baffled by the world he now inhabits. He’s cynical, stubborn, begrudges the aging process and (according to his grand-daughter) is experiencing dementia. He’s also very funny.

But his uneasy routine is upended when he witnesses the murder of his neighbour. Fearing that the man responsible will harm the woman’s young son, Sheldon takes the boy on the run. Together they cross the city and make their way towards the only other place Sheldon is familiar with, his grand-daughter’s woodland cabin.

Divided from his young charge by age and by language, Sheldon draws on his memories to sustain him in this dangerous quest. He recalls his previous training as a Marine, and the advice of those who’ve been important players in his life, to help communicate with the young boy, win his trust and keep him safe. In doing so, Sheldon confronts much of the regret and guilt that he has carried with him for years.

Unconventional methods of transport (and clothing) make their journey into an adventure. But danger is always close behind in the shape of the Balkan gang led by the boy’s criminal father, and one question hangs over the unlikely pair as an ever-present menace: how long can an elderly man and a child evade capture? Sheldon knows that he needs to prepare himself for one final battle.

Norwegian by Night is highly atmospheric, showing Oslo through the eyes of a stranger to both the culture and the modern world. The characters are wonderfully vivid and real. This is a story that can make you laugh and cry on alternant pages.

Both funny and tragic, poignant and pulse-thumpingly suspenseful, Derek B. Miller’s debut novel is hugely compelling and will stay with you long after you have finished reading.

Highly recommended.


[I bought my copy of Norwegian by Night, in fact I read it on Kindle and then bought the hardback version too!]

Notes from Harrogate: Part 2

Lee Child interviewed by Sarah Millican

Lee Child interviewed by Sarah Millican

Saturday at Harrogate was again gorgeously sunny. After a fabulous breakfast, I went along (with minimal hangover) to Forensics: Val McDermid in conversation with Sue Black. It was a great session, and especially useful for any budding crime writers. Sue Black demystified the world of forensics with a special focus on identity including DNA sampling and facial reconstruction.

After a quick coffee (my fifth of the day) I went back into the hall for the New Book panel. Expertly chaired by Val McDermid, debut authors Derek B. Miller (Norwegian by Night), Anya Lipska (Where The Devil Can’t Go), Malcolm Mackay (The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter) and Colette McBeth (Precious Thing), discussed their novels, their journey to publication, and what was next for them. From this panel I heard one of my favourite quotes of the festival. It was from Derek B. Miller, who said, “crime writers don’t love crime, they love justice.” Brilliant.

After a quick lunch (sandwiches and crisps on the lawn – no alcohol) I headed to the Library for the C&R Crime party (and a glass of wine!). It was great to catch up with the team from C&R Crime, hear about all the exciting releases they’ve got coming up, and talk to their authors.

By this point it was almost five o’clock, and that meant it was time to get my seat for the Lee Child interview. The hall was packed to bursting, but with my trusty Festival Friend card (which gave the equivalent of ‘speedy boarding’ into the hall) I was able to get a seat three rows from the front. Comedienne Sarah Millican did a superb job with the interview – it was witty, insightful and all round entertaining. The hour-long session went past far too fast, but I was thrilled that I managed to meet Lee Child afterwards (he is my literary hero) and get a photo with him. I was grinning for the rest of the evening.

Anyway, from there it was a mad dash to the License to Thrill dinner. Author David Mark had written a bond themed murder mystery puzzle for the tables to solve during dinner. It was great fun and although the table I was on didn’t win, we had a lot of fun trying.

After a brief rest in the bar (!) it was on to the Late Night Quiz with quizmasters Mark Billingham and Val McDermid. Although the rules clearly stated teams should have six members, we flexed the rules a little and went with seven. It didn’t matter, we reasoned, we were going to lose anyway. But, with plenty of wine (plus the Theakstons beers that we ‘had to’ drink as part of the Name That Beer Round) we discovered that we were not quite as rubbish at the questions as we had thought that we would be. We didn’t win a prize, but we weren’t too far off. So to celebrate we returned to the bar until the early hours.

And then it was Sunday. After a ridiculously late night/early morning I needed a bit of a lie in, so I only made it to one session. But what a great one it was. Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse series (which became HBO’s True Blood) and a whole bunch of stand-alone novels and other mystery series’, was interviewed by Paul Blezard. An inspiring and highly entertaining hour.

And then it was over.

As I packed up my bags, loaded the car, and said goodbye to all the fabulous people I’d met over the weekend I knew one thing for sure. I’ll definitely be back next year.