I was titillated by the title — a bold, brilliant title that didn’t tell me too much, but had me curious. Of course I wanted to read a book about someone who would only be Norwegian by night … whatever that meant.
This is a book about … well … it’s a book about many things. It’s a thriller. It’s about civil war. Genocide. Dementia. Love. Loss. Aging. Taking a stand and doing ‘what’s right.’ It’s about people.
Sound confusing? It really isn’t, but it does try to take on a little too much. Or maybe it’s that author Derek B. Miller does such a good job of making all his characters so interesting that none are fleshed out to their fullest potential. Whatever the case, it doesn’t quite hit the mark.
In Norwegian By Night, elderly Sheldon Horowitz moves to Norway to live with his grand-daughter, his only living relative. While there, he becomes entangled in a dispute between a Balkan war criminal and the man’s wife. Sheldon witnesses the woman’s murder and decides that it is up to him to rescue their young son. Sheldon takes off in a strange country, with a child who doesn’t speak English, and being searched for by the Balkan war criminal, the Norwegian police, and his grand-daughter and her husband. Sheldon’s old Marine buddies appear and speak and guide him along the way.
There were moments in the book that seemed to take forever… when we spent too much time at one place or on one person. There were other times when I couldn’t get enough… it was so interesting and moving so well that I was totally captivated. But then pages later, I might be completely and utterly confused as to why we switched view-points or who was doing the talking.
Sheldon’s grand-daughter, Rhea, and her husband, Lars, were mostly dull and un-interesting. They were necessary characters for getting Sheldon involved in the plot, but beyond that they didn’t seem to have much life in them.
Sheldon was a wonderful, colorful character. As you read along you are so sure that he’s crazy, addled with dementia, and then just a few pages later, author Miller has you convinced that Sheldon is more lucid and on-the-ball, than anyone else in the book. And then he’s talking to the ghosts of his Marine past (if, indeed, he did have a Marine past). This portion of the book, while a little confusing and even frustrating at first, becomes quite fun as you realize the author is playing with us.
The detectives, Sigrid and Petter, are a little stereotypical, but interesting enough that we don’t feel we know them well enough. This could have been a book about Sigrid, but isn’t, but if there were one character we’d like to read about again, it would be she.
The Balkan war criminal, Enver, is the biggest missing piece to the book. What is his story. Why is he here and doing what he’s doing, and why such insistence on finding the boy? None of these questions are really uncovered, and this is where the plot falls thin. Without knowing why it’s important (we trust that all will be answered by the end) we don’t understand why each character has struggled to do what they have done.
The boy himself is a foil, a tool for advancing the story, which is too bad. This was a missed opportunity.
All in all, it took me too long to get involved in the book and to learn to make sense of the jumping around from points of view, but when I did, I mostly enjoyed what was there.,
Looking for a good book? This one has a lot to offer if you’re willing to put in the effort.
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Norwegian by Night
author: Derek B. Miller
paperback, 304 pages