Norwegian by Night

Derek B. Miller

Norwegian by Night
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Norwegian by Night

Derek B. Miller

Sheldon Horowitz - 82 years old, impatient, and unreasonable - is staying with his granddaughter’s family in Norway when he disappears with a stranger’s child. Sheldon is an ex-Marine, and he feels responsible for his son’s death in Vietnam. Recently widowed and bereft, he talks to the ghosts of his past constantly. To Norway’s cops, Sheldon is just an old man who is coming undone at the end of a long and hard life. But Sheldon is clear in his own mind. He’d heard the boy’s eastern European mother being murdered, and he’s determined to protect the child from the killer and his Balkan gang. With an endearing combination of dexterity and daring, Sheldon manages to elude the police in what is hostile, foreign territory for him. But what he doesn’t know is that the police and the gang both know where he’s heading. Norwegian by Night is the last adventure of a man coming to terms with the tragedy of his own life as he tries to save another’s. It combines laconic, deadpan humour, moral seriousness, visceral grief, and narrative tension in a remarkable way.

Review

derek_miller1This book was smartly discovered by Henry Rosenbloom, pal of Readings and publisher at Scribe, so Australian audiences have a chance to read it before the rest of the world joins the party.

Miller is an American living in Norway, as is the book’s protagonist – the elderly and increasingly confused ex-Marine Sheldon Horowitz. After his wife’s death, he moves to Oslo with his granddaughter Rhea and her husband Lars, his last familial connection since his son was killed at war. Years later, Sheldon is still ill-reconciled with the death, continuing to equate being a soldier with manhood and the victim of a slowly increasing paranoia.

One day he takes it upon himself to help hide a woman and her son from a brutal abuser. Yet when the police arrive, the woman is dead, and Sheldon and the boy are gone. Not trusting the system and in an attempt to atone for past wrongs, Sheldon decides to take the child on the run, using his street-smarts and society’s allowance for old men to be loud, bizarre and belligerent to get by. The police, however, are not as daft as Sheldon thinks – and neither are the men who want both the boy and the secrets he hides.

This book enables the reader to be truly present in the minds of its characters. Norway, America, war and history all the way back to biblical times are beautifully deconstructed by Sheldon and those around him, while never detracting from the immediate tension of the story.

Norwegian by Night is peppered with points of difference – a hero plagued with arthritis and the onset of dementia, who views the Scandinavian landscape from afar instead of within – but what really makes this book my pick of the month is the incredible writing: fluid and enchanting, suspenseful and engaging, crime as serious literature.


fiona-hardy-picFiona Hardy sells books and talks too much to customers at Readings Carlton, and puts together Dead Write for the Readings Monthly. She blogs haphazardly about movies and books (and sometimes music) and you can follow her on twitter - @readwatchtweet.

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