Varg Veum Books in Order: How to read Gunnar Staalesen’s series?

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Crime novels written by Norwegian author Gunnar Staalesen, the series follows the investigations of a private investigator based in the city of Bergen, Norway. Varg Veum is a former social worker turned private detective, known for his dogged determination and uncompromising principles. Set against the backdrop of Bergen’s picturesque yet gritty streets, the series delves into cases ranging from missing persons and infidelity to murder and political corruption.

How to Read the Varg Veum Series in Order?

Every entry in the Varg Veum book series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other. Staalesen has written 19 novels and two short story collections with Veum as the main character, not all have been translated yet. In fact, they were not even published in order in America. This list follows the American publication order.

  1. We Shall Inherit The Wind – 1998. Varg Veum sits by the hospital bedside of his long-term girlfriend Karin, whose life-threatening injuries provide a deeply painful reminder of the mistakes he’s made. Investigating the seemingly innocent disappearance of a wind-farm inspector, Varg Veum is thrust into one of the most challenging cases of his career, riddled with conflicts, environmental terrorism, religious fanaticism, unsolved mysteries and dubious business ethics. Then, in one of the most heart-stopping scenes in crime fiction, the first body appears…
  2. Yours Until Death – It was at their ‘torture chamber’, a hut in the pinewoods nearby, that Varg Veum, Private Investigator, first encountered the gang’s pathetic but deadly ferocity. Eight-year-old Roar’s bicycle had been stolen and not an adult in sight dared retrieve it. But a preliminary brush with such youthful violence was as nothing compared to what awaited Veum when he got to know Roar’s blue-eyed, shy yet sensuous mother, Wenche Andresen, and her estranged husband, Jonas. Veum’s attempts to break up Joker and his pack of young thugs by enlisting the help of the local youth club leader proved a dead end. But not so dead as the man who lay prone with a knife in his back on the floor of Andresen’s flat.
  3. At Night All Wolves Are Grey – Abandoned by the woman he loves, Veum takes to the bars. He meets people, of course. Not necessarily gallant ones. A retired policeman confides in him and opens up about old cases. One of them has particularly affected him, as he is convinced that the real culprit is still at large: the fire at a paint factory in the early 50s, which claimed many victims. Veum is bored, so he thinks back to this supposedly unsolved case. But when the retired policeman is hit by a car, survives but dies mysteriously the day he leaves the hospital, the private eye stops thinking about it: he gets down to work. So, after the bars, he began to frequent the homeless. At night. When all the wolves are gray.
  1. The Writing on the Wall – Teenaged girls, many from privileged backgrounds, are being drawn into drugs and prostitution at an astonishing rate. When the local magistrate is discovered dead in a luxury hotel, clad only in women’s lingerie, the mystery deepens. Called in by anxious parents to search for a missing girl, private investigator Varg Veum uncovers clues that lead him deep into Bergen’s criminal underworld. As Veum begins to lift the thin veneer of normality that hides a society on the brink of collapse, it becomes clear that this time he may not escape with his life.
  2. The Consorts of Death – September 1995. A phone call takes Verg Veum back 25 years to a case from when he was a working as a child protection officer in the summer of 1970. A small boy was separated from his mother under tragic circumstances, but it didn’t end there. In 1974, the same boy surfaced in connection with a sudden death at his new home; and once again, ten years later, after a dramatic double murder in Sunnfjord. The boy is now an adult, on the run in Oslo and determined to take revenge on those responsible for destroying his life – among them Veum, now a private investigator.
  3. Cold Hearts – On a frosty January day in Bergen, Private Detective Varg Veum is visited by a prostitute. Her friend Margrethe has disappeared and hasn’t been seen for days. Before her disappearance, something had unsettled her: she’d turned away a customer and returned to the neighbourhood in terror. Shortly after taking the case, Veum is confronted with a brutal, uneasy reality. He soon finds the first body – and it won’t be the last either. His investigation leads him into a dark subculture where corrupted idealism has had deadly consequences.
  1. Where Roses Never Die – September 1977. Mette Misvær, a three-year-old girl disappears without a trace from the sandpit outside her home. Her tiny, close middle-class community in the tranquil suburb of Nordas is devastated, but their inquiries and the police produce nothing. Curtains twitch, suspicions are raised, but Mette is never found. Almost 25 years later, as the expiry date for the statute of limitations draws near, Mette’s mother approaches PI Varg Veum, in a last, desperate attempt to find out what happened to her daughter. As Veum starts to dig, he uncovers an intricate web of secrets, lies, and shocking events that have been methodically concealed. When another brutal incident takes place, a pattern begins to emerge…
  2. Big Sister – Varg Veum receives a surprise visit in his office. A woman introduces herself as his half-sister, and she has a job for him. Her god-daughter, a 19-year-old trainee nurse from Haugesund, moved from her bedsit in Bergen two weeks ago. Since then no one has heard anything from her. She didn’t leave an address. She doesn’t answer her phone. And the police refuse to take her case seriously. Veum’s investigation uncovers a series of carefully covered-up crimes and pent-up hatreds, and the trail leads to a gang of extreme bikers on the hunt for a group of people whose dark deeds are hidden by the anonymity of the Internet. And then things get personal…
  3. Wolves in the Dark – Reeling from the death of his great love, Karin, Varg Veum’s life has descended into a self-destructive spiral of alcohol, lust, grief, and blackouts. When traces of child pornography are found on his computer, he’s accused of being part of a pedophile ring and thrown into a prison cell. There, he struggles to sift through his past to work out who is responsible for planting the material … and who is seeking the ultimate revenge.
  1. Wolves at the Door – One dark January night a car drives at high speed towards PI Varg Veum, and comes very close to killing him. Veum is certain this is no accident, following so soon after the deaths of two jailed men who were convicted for their participation in a case of child pornography and sexual assault … crimes that Veum himself once stood wrongly accused of committing. While the guilty men were apparently killed accidentally, Varg suspects that there is something more sinister at play … and that he’s on the death list of someone still at large.
  2. Fallen Angels – When Bergen PI Varg Veum finds himself at the funeral of a former classmate on a sleet-grey December afternoon, he’s unexpectedly reunited with his old friend Jakob – guitarist of the once-famous 1960s rock band The Harpers – and his estranged wife, Rebecca, Veum’s first love. Their rekindled friendship is thrown into jeopardy by the discovery of a horrific murder, and Veum is forced to dig deep into his own adolescence and his darkest memories, to find a motive … and a killer.
  3. Bitter Flowers – PI Varg Veum has returned to duty following a stint in rehab, but his new composure and resolution are soon threatened when a challenging assignment arrives on his desk. A man is found dead in an elite swimming pool and a young woman has gone missing. Most chillingly, Varg Veum is asked to investigate the ‘Camilla Case’: an eight-year-old cold case involving the disappearance of a little girl, who was never found.
  1. Mirror Image – Varg Veum is perplexed when two wildly different cases cross his desk at the same time. A lawyer, anxious to protect her privacy, asks Varg to find her sister, who has disappeared with her husband, seemingly without trace, while a ship carrying unknown cargo is heading towards the Norwegian coast, and the authorities need answers. Varg immerses himself in the investigations, and it becomes clear that the two cases are linked, and have unsettling – and increasingly uncanny – similarities to events that took place thirty-six years earlier, when a woman and her saxophonist lover drove their car off a cliff, in an apparent double suicide.
  2. Pursued by Death – When Varg Veum reads the newspaper headline ‘YOUNG MAN MISSING’, he realizes he’s seen the youth just a few days earlier – at a crossroads in the countryside, with his two friends. It turns out that the three were on their way to a demonstration against a commercial fish-farming facility in the tiny village of Solvik, north of Bergen. Varg heads to Solvik, initially out of curiosity, but when he comes upon a dead body in the sea, he’s pulled into a dark and complex web of secrets, feuds, and jealousies. Is the body he’s found connected to the death of a journalist who was digging into the fish farm’s operations two years earlier? And does either incident have something to do with the competition between the two powerful families that dominate Solvik’s salmon farming industry?

Varg Veum Original Publication Order

  1. Bukken til havresekken (1977)
  2. Yours Until Death (1979)
  3. Tornerose sov i hundre år (1980)
  4. Kvinnen i kjøleskapet (1981)
  5. At Night All Wolves Are Grey (1983)
  6. Hekseringen (short stories, 1985)
  7. Black Sheep (1988)
  8. Fallen Angels (1989)
  9. Bitter Flowers (1991)
  10. Begravde hunder biter ikke (1993)
  11. The Writing on the Wall (1995)
  12. De døde har det godt (short stories, 1996)
  13. Mirror Image (2002)
  14. Ansikt til ansikt (2004)
  15. The Consorts of Death (2006)
  16. Cold Hearts (2008)
  17. We Shall Inherit the Wind (2010)
  18. Where Roses Never Die (2012)
  19. Wolves in the Dark (2014)
  20. Big Sister (2016)
  21. Wolves at the Door (2018)
  22. Pursued by Death (2023)

If you like the Varg Veum reading order, you may also want to see our guide to the Harry Hole series or the William Wisting series. Don’t hesitate to follow us on Twitter or Facebook to discover more book series.

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