11 April 2023

#Blogtour #Review - The Lazarus Solution by Kjell Ola Dahl

Book "The Lazarus Solution" by Kjell Ola Dahl. A city at night. In the foreground, a dark car, halted. Beside it, a figure seen in silhouette, looking up at one of the buildings.
The Lazarus Solution
Kjell Ola Dahl (trans Don Bartlett)
Orenda Books, 27 April 2023
Available as: PB, 295pp, e, audio
Source: Advance copy
ISBN(PB): 9781914585685

I'm grateful to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for sending me a copy of The Lazarus Solution to consider for review, and for inviting me to join the book's blogtour.

In The Lazarus Solution, Kjell Ola Dahl gives us a satisfyingly murky, noir-infused thriller set in Stockholm in 1943. The characters are exiles from the Nazi occupation of Norway, spies of various nations, patriots, collaborators. (There's even a femme fatale). Some of the people we meet are several of these things at once. 

Our hero, Jomar Kraby, seems an unlikely participant in all this. A writer (whose works have been censored by the Swedish government, anxious to place the Germans and not be drawn into the war) he's asked by the Norwegian government-in-exile to investigate the killing of one of its couriers on occupied soil. Kraby, whose daily business seems to be drinking and failing to write, proves an unexpectedly skilful, resourceful and determined investigator, so much so that one feels there is more to him than we are being told.

Indeed that's one of the pleasures of this book - while comparatively short, it gives the impression of a peek into a larger world, whether through the presence of the Soviet embassy (which is clearly up to something) under its grizzled spymistress, Kraby's messy unfinished business with his ex back in Norway or the administrative rivalries between various branches of the Norwegian legation. Romantic, professional and ideological motives become confounded - and that's even before we learn more about the dead man, Daniel Berkåk, and his connections to refugee Kai Fredly and his Nazi-supporting brother.

Kai's history and that of his brother provide the opportunity for a bit of necessary exposition, detailing both Marxist and Nazi ideologies and showing the events that might have shaped young men and women in Norway before the invasion. Again, it's complex, and Kjell Ola Dahl illustrates how divided loyalties can become - this isn't a book that deals in moral absolutes at all. For a crime novel, that is of course wonderful as it makes absolutely everybody suspect, but it also drives a story in which what matters is less who was where at a given time, or what the condition of a body tells us about a death, but rather, how each character stands in relation to all of the others.

As such, a writer like Kraby, used to dealing in motivations and weighing characters, is perhaps just the right figure to be investigating what happened. Less a sleuth, perhaps, than the author of a story, he moves through the shadows of wartime Stockholm - as well as Norway itself - to dark corners where all manner of mischief is going on with surprising bedfellows (in both senses of the word) up to a world of chicanery. 

I loved Kraby as a central figure, recognisably walking the mean streets yet keeping his humanity, a witness to what happens in the dark without consenting to it. A witness, one feels, who will be ready to give evidence when the war ends and the reckoning - which many here, on all sides, hope for or fear - finally comes.

Simply a brilliant, compelling novel of humanity and collusion, ably translated by Don Bartlett into flowing English.

I would definitely recommend this one!

For more information about The Lazarus Solution, see the publisher's website here - and of course the other stops on the blogtour which you can see listed on the poster below. 

You can buy The Lazarus Solution from your local high street bookshop or online from Bookshop UK, Hive Books, Blackwell's, Foyle's, WH Smith, Waterstones or Amazon.


  1. Thanks for the blog tour support x

  2. I've enjoyed both the other books I've read by this author. One contemporary crime, one set in the 1920s into the 1930s which was suitably murky when a former booze-runner and his nemesis policeman team up as private eyes. You make this one sound excellent too and an interesting time in Scandinavia to write about.