The Human Flies

Hans Olav Lahlum

2015 Nominee

Petrona Award

15 January 2015
400 pages


Oslo, 1968. Ambitious young detective Inspector Kolbjørn Kristiansen is called to an apartment block, where a man has been found murdered.

The victim, Harald Olesen, was a legendary hero of the Resistance during the Nazi occupation and at first it is difficult to imagine who could have wanted him dead. But as Detective Inspector Kolbjørn Kristiansen (known as K2) begins to investigate, it seems clear that the murderer could only be one of Olesen's fellow tenants in the building.

Soon, with the help of Patricia - a brilliant young woman confined to a wheelchair following a terrible accident - K2 will begin to untangle the web of lies surrounding Olesen's neighbours; each of whom, it seems, had their own reasons for wanting Olesen dead. Their interviews, together with new and perplexing clues, will lead K2 and Patricia to dark events that took place during the Second World War . . .

The Human Flies by Hans Olav Lahlum is a gripping, evocative and ingenious mystery - the first in a series featuring K2 and Patricia - which pays homage to the great Agatha Christie and will plunge readers into Norwegian history, and into a world of deceit and betrayal, revenge and the very darkest murder.

Locked-room mysteries used to be a staple of golden-age crime fiction. Now the Norwegian novelist Hans Olav Lahlum has revived the form in The Human Flies translated by Kari Dickson. The novel is set in 1968, when a young detective inspector - Kolbjorn Kristiansen, known as K2 - is sent to an apartment block in Oslo to investigate the murder of a Resistance hero. The victim has been shot in his flat but there is no sign of the weapon and the front door appears to be locked from the inside. It is the start of a brilliant investigation in which K2 is secretly assisted by an enigmatic young woman who is confined to a wheelchair.
Prepare yourself for a classic whodunnit of the highest calibre, a deviously challenging murder mystery set in an apartment complex in 1960s Oslo . . . a joy to read.
Critics have been lining up to praise this remarkable novel from historian, chess-player and politician Hans Olav Lahlum and it's not hard to see why.