Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Last Pilgrim by Gard Sveen

The Last Pilgrim by Gard Sveen
First published as Den Siste Pilgrimen in Norwegian in Norway by Vigmostad og Bjorke in 2013. English translation by Steven T Murray published by Amazon Crossing in 2016.
Winner of the Riverton Prize in 2013 and both the Glass Key and the Maurits Hansen Award in 2014.

One of my WorldReads from Norway

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Young, lovely Norwegian Agnes Gerner is waging a dangerous and secret fight. Outwardly, she is a devoted Nazi sympathizer engaged to a prominent businessman. In fact, she is part of an underground resistance doing everything to win the war against the Germans. The only hope she has of being reunited with the man she truly loves—who serves under the code name “Pilgrim”—is if the Nazis are defeated. Of course, there’s no guarantee that she’ll be alive when that happens.
Many years later, three sets of remains are found in a popular Oslo forest - two adults and a child. Despite his boss’s call to not spend extra time on the old case, Detective Tommy Bergmann cannot help but dig deeper, especially as he uncovers connections to a more recent murder. As he unravels the secrets of the past, it becomes clear that everything is permissible in war - and that only those who reject love can come out victorious.

The Last Pilgrim is a dual timeline novel which jumps frequently between 1940s wartime Norway and a 2003 police investigation into bodies believed buried during that war. Initially this made it difficult for me to keep track of who everybody was and I am not sure that the device worked for me in this book. I felt more that the resulting story failed to be either a rich historical novel or atmospheric crime fiction, instead falling somewhere between these two genres. Characters are not particularly fleshed out or detailed although it did make a change that our tortured-soul police detective, Tommy Bergmann, isn't an alcoholic. He's a wifebeater.

Bergmann zips across to Sweden and Germany at the drop of a hat trying to unravel the historic mystery. There's a lot of straw-clutching and giving away of confidential information and I did struggle to follow all the twists and turns as readers are often kept in the dark or only given cryptic comments to work with. The denouement is ultimately satisfying, but I wasn't as impressed with the journey as I thought I would be considering the prizes The Last Pilgrim has won.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Gard Sveen / Crime fiction / Books from Norway


  1. A shame that you couldn't like this one as much as you wanted to :( I think it would have been nice if you could've, especially with all the prizes to its name. But it seems like the time jumps were a bit jarring and confusing, and the book felt halfway between two genres so that didn't work out for you :(

    1. I often find it more difficult to get into crime novels so would have preferred complete focus on the historical tale.