The Fourth Man is the first book by the premier Norwegian crime writer, K O Dahl, to be translated into English. It is one of the Oslo Detective novels which centre on the cases of Detective Frølich and his boss, Detective Gunnarstranda. A quick google reveals that The Fourth Man is actually the fifth book of the series. This is quite often the case in series translations, but in this instance, reading out of order takes nothing away from the book. I experienced no confusion and had a very strong idea of each character, so I assume Dahl writes this series in standalone novels.
During a sting operation, Frank Frølich is forced to break his cover in order to rescue a civilian who has wandered on to the set up. In a dramatic turn of events, Frølich throws himself on the girl to protect her from harm. When the dust settles, the civilian, Elisabeth Faremo, introduces herself to Frølich, and so starts his troubles. When it comes to light that Elisabeth is the sister of known gangster Johnny Faremo, Frølich’s superior, Gunnarstranda, warns him that something is rotten in
I cracked open this attractive paperback with a tiny bit of apprehension. I have to confess that I have a slight prejudice against translated works. It seems to me that some of the nuances must be lost in, well, translation. But the opening chapter played out in such a beautifully noir style that all my doubts were banished immediately. In fact, I fell for Elisabeth Faremo myself during the opening, which only added to my emotional investment in the novel.
Frølich made for quite a good protagonist. Sure, there’s nothing hugely original about a disgruntled detective with a taste for booze and a maverick attitude towards procedure and authority. But his obsession with Elisabeth Faremo lent him a whole new dimension. And he was a bit of a hard nut too, which is always good.
Something that did bother me a little; there was no real humour in the book. Maybe I’m just used to the Northern Irish take on tragedy, but it seemed to me that every single character was in need of a good dose of anti-depressants. Though, in my opinion, that was the book's only real weakness. The plot was solid, with the standard red herrings and unexpected twists. A good cast kept things interesting. I felt like I learned a little about
So, The Fourth Man: Norwegian noir with a hard, world-weary edge. I look forward to more of the same. And I’ll have it, in the form of The Man at the Window, Dahl’s second English translation, and another Oslo Detectives tale.