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The Land of Dreams (Minnesota Trilogy) Hardcover – October 7, 2013
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*Starred Review* Winner of the Riverton Prize for best Norwegian crime novel, this transplanted Scandinavian thriller is set in Minnesota on the shores of Lake Superior and is the first book of a trilogy. Lance Hansen is a police officer with the U.S. Forest Service, but his real passion is local history. While making his morning rounds, he finds the body of a young man who has been bludgeoned to death. No one can recall a murder in this part of Minnesota, and, indeed, Hansen has to go back almost 100 years to find another—oddly enough, in the same area. Hansen calls in the local sheriff, who quickly refers the case to the FBI. The dead man, it turns out, was a Norwegian tourist, and the friend he was traveling with is the prime suspect. FBI agent Bob Lecuyer flies in a detective from Oslo, Eirik Nyland, who befriends Hansen. Hansen is just as intrigued by the story of a murdered Native American in the 1800s as he is in the current murder, and finds some ominous ties to his own family. The landscape is a big part of the story, as is the history of the area, making this a fascinating look at Minnesota as well as a suspenseful thriller. The novel will certainly appeal to Scandinavian crime-fiction fans, but the vivid Minnesota setting should expand its audience considerably. A fine mix of history and mystery. --Stacy Alesi
"The Land of Dreams is a brilliant investigation into the darkest of all mysteries—the human heart. In its complexity and beauty, the story is every bit the equal of the landscape in which it is set, the stunning North Shore of Minnesota." —William Kent Krueger, author of Ordinary Grace
"Scandinavian noir meets Minnesota noir. . . . Sundstøl weaves a rich sense of Northland history and heritage into his crime novel. His deep knowledge of—and love for—the Lake Superior region comes through on every page." —Brian Freeman, author of The Cold Nowhere
"Norwegian crime novelist Sundstøl’s stellar psychological thriller, the first in his Minnesota Trilogy, stunningly evokes the North Shore of Lake Superior and its people. Nunnally’s convincing translation helps bring it all to unforgettable life." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Sundstøl’s superb first entry in his acclaimed Minnesota trilogy, now published for the first time in the United States, interweaves a Nordic noir flavor with the history and heritage of Minnesota’s Cook County. Fans of Scandinavian crime novels and mysteries with a Minnesota setting will enjoy this chilling psychological thriller." —Library Journal
"The novel will certainly appeal to Scandinavian crime-fiction fans, but the vivid Minnesota setting should expand its audience considerably. A fine mix of history and mystery." —Booklist, starred review
"The novel’s most gripping theme: that history can be like an “ancient monster” hiding, waiting, unseen and unspoken, until a storm exposes it — and then we must confront that which we’ve silenced, ignored or simply forgotten." —Star Tribune
"What wonders there are in America’s own backyard, if we only think to look. That’s what the Norwegian writer Vidar Sundstøl does in The Land of Dreams." —The New York Times
"The story is very far from complete, but it has created a world, past and present, and not terribly benign, that I can scarcely wait to enter again." —Washington Post
"Sundstøl’s dialogue with the universe, with nature’s physical contact, reaches mythological heights. Its lyricism strikes like an arrow in the heart of the target." —Le Figaro (France)
"The first of Sundstøl’s Minnesota trilogy to be published in the U.S. is literate, lyrically descriptive, and mystical. The next can’t come too soon." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
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Top Customer Reviews
The Land of Dreams introduces us to Lance Hansen, his family, coworkers, and neighbors in a small town on the shore of Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota. Hansen thinks of himself as a “forest cop.” He’s a 46-year-old police officer whose beat is the sprawling Superior National Forest near which he lives. Hansen lives in the town of Tofte, which was “one of those places where people called to tell you to get better before you even knew you were under the weather.” Though he’s divorced from an Ojibwe woman who now lives on a nearby Indian reservation and is the father of their active seven-year-old son, his life is generally uneventful.
Then Hansen stumbles across the badly beaten body of a young Norwegian man in the forest. The FBI has jurisdiction, assisted by a Norwegian homicide detective flown in to assist them. Hansen himself is not officially involved in the investigation, but his curiosity moves him to press his friends in law enforcement for details and to look into the circumstances of the murder himself. To his horror, he discovers that his younger brother, Andy, must be considered a suspect. Out of love for his brother and fear that he might actually be guilty, Hansen conceals from the FBI the evidence of Andy’s possible guilt that only he knows about. Meanwhile, to discover whether the young man’s murder was the first ever to take place in the region, he digs deeply into the historical archives he maintains—and discovers that a distant relative may have been murdered locally more than a century earlier. Hansen suspects a connection of some sort between the two killings.
The action in The Land of Dreams advances at a slow pace. There is suspense, but it’s muted. The book is a murder mystery, but it’s better thought of as literature. Sundstøl dwells at length on the history of Norwegian immigration to the area and on his protagonist’s troubled inner dialogue. The translation by Tiina Nunnally is artful, easing the reader’s path along the way despite the slowly unfolding action.
About the author
Vidar Sundstøl wrote the Minnesota Trilogy “after he and his wife lived for two years on the shore of Lake Superior,” according to the note about the author at the back of the book. An interview in the blog Scandinavian Crime Fiction in English Translation explains the background and the circumstances to Sundstøl’s stay in the U.S. (For starters, he met and married an American woman.) He is the author of six novels to date.
Sundstøl has painted a vivid picture of the North Shore, many factual accounts are woven into his fictional narrative, it makes it very enjoyable to read. I also find myself wondering what it is like to read this book in Norway, as it was first intended prior to translation. I wonder what kind of picture it paints in the imagination of someone who has never been here. Though today one has only to go to the internet for a true visual.
Well done, I will be starting the second novel today!
What drives Lance, with respect the murder, is his historian's desire to have stories validated. Proven true. Along the way, Eirik Nyland, a Norwegian detective sent to assist the FBI in solving this crime, seeks Lance's acquaintance. Lance is deeply troubled by the knowledge he carries about the murderer. Knowledge he will not share with anyone else. In addition, Lance is researching an older mystery involving an Ojibwe (Annishaanabe) Medicine Man, who is connected to the people on the nearby reservation, Grand Portage. The Spirit of the Annishaanabe are calling to him.
Lance has a deep sense of place. He, and most others who live in his region are the descendants of Scandinavian immigrants, often miners and fishermen, who came to this region to find their fortune. Many family stories are generated in this environment, which Lance knows well, because he is the Cook County historian. But Lance's family stories do not reveal what he finds out about himself, about his family's Indian blood, and how this affects the solution of this mystery.
Vidar Sundstøl, the author, has written in a way that creates the place and the people of this mostly rural area, and documents its history in a depth not often seen in a police procedural. In addition, He may pique the interest of Scandinavian readers about their immigrant relatives, and American readers about the history and culture of this area of the North shore of 'Lac Supiérieur', as the French trappers would say. This is the first of a trilogy. I eagerly await the translation of the last two books in the series.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The characters weren't especially interesting.Read more