January 26, 2014

Book Review: The Land of Dreams


Vidar Sundstøl's The Land of Dreams is Scandinavian mystery at its finest--even though it's set in the United States. Lance Hansen (whose four grandparents were all Norwegian) is a Forest Service Officer in northern Minnesota who spends his days scouring the edges of Lake Superior for litterers, people fishing illegally and meth labs. One day, he stumbles across a naked man, covered in blood, who keeps repeating the Norwegian word for love. Hansen follows the stunned man into the woods, where he finds a gruesomely mangled body. He calls in assistance; because the body is in a national forest, the FBI is soon on the scene.

The two men were Norwegian tourists on a canoeing vacation. Why would someone murder a tourist so brutally? Norwegian detective Eirik Nyland comes to Minnesota to help the FBI answer this question. Meanwhile, Hansen--an avid genealogist--turns to his historical archives to discover a possible link between this murder and the disappearance of an Ojibway man more than a century before.

Sundstøl aptly weaves together the history of the Ojibway people, the story of the Scandinavian immigrants who arrived in northern Minnesota a century earlier and the men currently investigating the crime. It also brings up difficult questions about guilt, allegiance, and familial and cultural bonds that are hard to break. The Land of Dreams, originally published in Norway in 2008 as the first volume in Sundstøl's "Minnesota trilogy," will be appreciated by mystery lovers everywhere.

I enjoyed the twist on the typical Scandinavian mystery, and I really liked the inclusion of Minnesotan history. Plus (without being too spoilery) a fairly large plot element is left hanging at the end, and I'm curious to see where it goes in future books. Also, since I'm an avid amateur genealogist* myself, I appreciated Lance's obsession with the past.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? I think so? I honestly can't remember any offensive stuff.

Any of you avid genealogists?

*As I recently shared on Facebook - almost all the episodes of both the American and British versions of 'Who Do You Think You Are?' are available on YouTube! I've been having a nerdy, genealogical field day. 

I originally wrote most of this review for Shelf Awareness and it includes a few of my affiliate links.