Winner of the Riverton Prize for best Norwegian crime novel and named by Dagbladet as one of the top twenty-five Norwegian crime novels of all time, The Land of Dreams is the chilling first installment in Vidar Sundstøl’s critically acclaimed Minnesota Trilogy, set on the rugged north shore of Lake Superior and in the region’s small towns and deep forests.
The grandson of Norwegian immigrants, Lance Hansen is a U.S. Forest Service officer and has a nearly all-consuming passion for local genealogy and history. But his quiet routines are shattered one morning when he comes upon a Norwegian tourist brutally murdered near a stone cross on the shore of Lake Superior. Another Norwegian man is nearby; covered in blood and staring out across the lake, he can only utter the word kjærlighet. Love.
FBI agent Bob Lecuyer is assigned to the case, as is Norwegian detective Eirik Nyland, who is immediately flown in from Oslo. As the investigation progresses, Lance begins to make shocking discoveries—including one that involves the murder of an Ojibwe man on the very same site more than one hundred years ago. As Lance digs into two murders separated by a century, he finds the clues may in fact lead toward someone much closer to home than he could have imagined.
The Land of Dreams is the opening chapter in a sweeping chronicle from one of Norway’s leading crime writers—a portrait of an extraordinary landscape, an exploration of hidden traumas and paths of silence that trouble history, and a haunting study in guilt and the bonds of blood.
|Publisher:||University of Minnesota Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Vidar Sundstøl is the acclaimed Norwegian author of six novels, including the Minnesota Trilogy, written after he and his wife lived for two years on the north shore of Lake Superior. The Land of Dreams was nominated for the Glass Key for best Scandinavian crime novel of the year, and the series has been translated into eight languages. The remaining novels in the trilogy—Only the Dead and The Ravens—are both forthcoming from Minnesota.
Read an Excerpt
THE LAND OF DREAMS
By VIDAR SUNDSTØL, TIINA NUNNALLY
University of Minnesota PressCopyright © 2008 Tiden Norsk Forlag, Oslo, an imprint of Gyldendal Norsk Forlag AS
All rights reserved.
THE LAKE GLITTERED IN THE SUNLIGHT. Seemingly endless, far in the distance it merged with the sky.
It was early morning, with hardly any traffic. A black Jeep Cherokee was on its way south along the lake. The driver was wearing sunglasses because of the sharp morning light. On the passenger seat lay a copy of the weekly Cook County News-Herald, an almost empty bag of Old Dutch potato chips, and a Minnesota Vikings cap. A photo of a dark-haired boy who was missing his front teeth was taped to the middle of the steering wheel.
The road would soon fill up with tourists in SUVs and RVs, but for now he had it almost to himself. The few people he met were locals on their way to work. They greeted each other as they did every morning. He knew who their ancestors were, and where they had come from. He knew the names of the towns and districts in Sweden and Norway where their families had lived for centuries, before someone had finally come up with the liberating idea of emigrating to the New World. But right now he wasn't thinking about any of this. He was thinking about whether he should call his brother down in Two Harbors or whether it was too early. It was actually always too early to call Andy. Too early or too late. He couldn't remember the last time he'd done it. Maybe before deer season last fall, which was seven or eight months ago now. But today he had a special reason for phoning him. Even so, he was reluctant to make the call.
Those were the sorts of things the man in the black Jeep was thinking about on this particular morning.
He passed the junkyard of the local scrap dealer, a veritable landscape of wrecked cars on the right side of the road, and continued down the hill toward the center of Tofte. There stood the Bluefin Bay Resort, in all its morning silence, right on the bay. A few yards from the modern-looking building, with its angles and glass facades, were the remains of the old wharf sticking up out of the water. Only the five stone pilings were left. In their partially collapsed state, they looked like the vertebrae of a broken spine, as if just below the surface there might be the skeleton of some huge ancient monster. At the same time the pilings seemed ridiculously small in comparison to the big resort that had been built a few years back.
He'd seen it all a thousand times before. This morning was no different from all the other sunlit summer mornings when he'd come driving down the hill toward Tofte. He drove past the Bluefin, Mary Jane's yarn shop, the post office, the church, the AmericInn Motel, and the gas station. And with that he left the center of Tofte behind. Ahead of him the road stretched out straight as an arrow, lined with birches on either side. Between the white tree trunks on the left he caught a glimpse of the lake. Halfway down the long, straight stretch of road was a sign pointing to the right: "Superior National Forest. Tofte Ranger District."
The station, which looked a little like a military base, consisted of several low, brown-painted buildings with lawns and asphalt pathways in between. He used the driveway reserved for employees and parked under the big birch tree. There was a car he hadn't seen before, and he guessed that it belonged to the new station chief.
The receptionist, Mary Berglund, and a man he didn't recognize were standing on either side of the counter and talking when he came in. Between them stood two paper cups holding steaming coffee. Up near the ceiling a stuffed bald eagle floated from almost invisible strings. A snowy owl perched on a branch. On the wall behind the counter Mary Berglund had hung up a dream catcher. It was a cheap, mass-produced one, and yet it was intended to be a tribute to the local American Indian population, a sign that their culture was also respected by the U.S. Forest Service. Over by the public entrance stood a big wolf with its tongue hanging out.
"Good morning, Lance," said Mary, a woman in her sixties wearing glasses and sporting a permanent.
The stranger, whom he immediately pegged as the new ranger, turned around and looked at him with an open and inquisitive expression.
"Lance Hansen?" the man said.
"John Zimmerman, district ranger," said the stranger, thrusting out his hand.
They shook hands. Zimmerman's handshake was firm and quick.
"Coffee?" He nodded toward the coffee machine, which stood on a table behind the information counter.
"Sure, thanks," said Lance.
Mary Berglund took a paper cup from the holder, poured the coffee, and set it on the counter. "Lance is our local genealogist," she told Zimmerman.
"Is that right?" He didn't sound particularly interested.
"It's just a hobby" said Lance. He took a sip, but the coffee was too hot, so he set the cup down. "What about you?" he said. "Where are you from?"
"My last posting was Kentucky. Daniel Boone National Forest"
"But you're not originally from the South, are you?" said Lance.
"No, I'm from back east. Born and raised in Massachusetts"
Zimmerman was a lean, suntanned man around fifty, and he made Lance feel flabby and heavy. The two of them were wearing identical khaki uniforms, with green slacks and sand-colored shirts. The only difference was their name badges, which said, respectively, "District Ranger," and "Law Enforcement Officer" Plus the fact that Lance was armed. He wore a pistol in a holster on his right hip.
"I'm sorry I haven't been by to say hello before now" said Lance. "Normally I'm in the office at least once a week, but great weather like this brings a lot of folks to the woods. I've been going full-tilt from morning till night"
"Just the usual. Brawls and boozing at a couple of campgrounds. Reckless driving. Illegal fishing. Welcome to the North Shore," he added.
"Thanks," said Zimmerman. "So what's on the program this morning?"
As a police officer, Lance didn't like being asked what he was working on. But since this was his first meeting with Zimmerman, he gave as detailed an answer as he could. "Someone may have put up a tent illegally over by Baraga's Cross. I got word of it yesterday but didn't have time to do anything about it. I'm going out to see if they're still there"
"So the cross is on federal property?" asked the ranger.
"Yes, it is"
"I didn't know that," said Zimmerman. "I guess I've got a lot to learn"
"It's a huge area" said Lance. "I've worked here for over twenty years now, and there are still parts of the forest I've never seen. It's a whole world of its own"
He took a cautious sip of the coffee. And then another. Mostly just to be polite. Then he set the cup back down on the counter.
"Well, I'd better get going," he said.
He headed down the basement stairs, which were under a wall mural showing a wolf pack in a blizzard. In the downstairs corridor he waved to the ladies in the office cubicles, as he always did when he walked past their door. He noticed the gentle face of his childhood friend Becky Tofte. Then he went into his own small office.
His job consisted primarily of making sure that people didn't dump large quantities of garbage in remote areas, that no one did any hot-rodding on the desolate roads, and that people didn't fish without a license, even though it was a hopeless battle, considering how large the area was. Sometimes people got lost, and he had to organize a search party. Or someone might set up camp in an area that was off-limits. In the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, tents could only be pitched in campsites designated by the U.S. Forest Service. So his job didn't exactly involve high drama. But occasionally he did have to investigate real crimes, such as illegal logging. Twice he'd also come across methamphetamine labs in the woods.
Because of the investigative nature of his job, strictly speaking he wasn't supposed to answer Zimmerman's question about what was on the program for the day. At any rate that was how Lance Hansen interpreted his role as a police officer working for the U.S. Forest Service. His position was somewhat scorned by law enforcement officers who had more urgent types of assignments—which meant most of them. Lance was a "forest cop." But he had no desire to get shot or to shoot anyone else, and for that reason he thought his job was far more preferable to walking a beat in some place like Duluth or Minneapolis.
He took the keys to his service vehicle from the hook on the wall. For a moment he paused, wondering whether he should call his brother now, but he decided against it. If he'd remembered to call him last night, he might have saved himself a trip down to the lake to check on those tourists. He'd been planning to phone him as soon as he got back from Duluth, but instead he'd turned on the TV and stretched out on the sofa. When he woke up a couple of hours later, dazed with sleep, he had forgotten all about the phone call. Now he might as well drive down there and check on things himself.
HE PARKED HIS SERVICE VEHICLE at the end of the road and got out. It was 7:28. In front of him stretched Lake Superior. There was nothing to see but light and water and sky—no opposite shore on which to fix his eyes, just the illusory meeting of sky and the surface of the water far off in the distance. The site where the tent had been spotted was a couple of hundred yards north of where he stood. An alert woman had called to report that someone had illegally pitched a tent down by the lake. He tried to catch sight of anyone over there, but the birch trees stood too close together. As he turned around to get his binoculars from the truck, he noticed a shoe lying on the path that led to Baraga's Cross.
He went over to the shoe. It looked brand-new, a white running shoe. It looked as if someone had simply stepped out of it, and when he examined the ground more closely, he discovered that he was right. That was exactly what had happened. About eighteen inches in front of the shoe he saw the print of a bare foot that had skidded on the path, which was damp with morning dew. He also saw a handprint, which showed that the individual had fallen. But the person hadn't put the shoe back on. Lance wondered what would make someone leave an almost-new running shoe behind. Even though the reported campsite was in the opposite direction, he picked up the shoe and followed the path through the dense birch underbrush.
Soon he emerged from the thicket. In front of him the Cross River calmly flowed down to the lake. A few miles farther south, smoke was pouring out of the tall stacks of the coal-powered electrical plant at Taconite Harbor. At the very tip of the point stood the cross. Someone was sitting on the other side of it. A bare leg was sticking out. Lance had sat there many times himself. It was a great place to sit, with support for your back and a view of the lake. As usual, withered flowers and burned-out tea light candles were visible at the base of the cross.
He began walking across the rocks toward the cross, still carrying the shoe in one hand. As he approached, he saw more of the leg that was sticking out. It seemed to be bare all the way up. He also noticed something that looked like dried blood on the thigh.
When he was almost there, standing in the shadow of the towering stone cross that was more than ten feet tall, he unfastened the flap on his holster and put his right hand on his service weapon. Then he quickly stepped to the side. The man was naked, except for a white running shoe on his right foot. His hands, thighs, and stomach were smeared with blood that had dried long ago and turned dark. His eyes were closed, his lips slightly parted.
Lance cleared his throat. "Sir?" he said cautiously. The face below him didn't move. "I'm a police officer. Can you hear me?" He was speaking louder now, but still got no response.
At that instant a wave of fear surged through him. He spun around, ready to draw his gun, but no one was there. He stood there with his hand on the gun hilt, breathing fast and loud. In his other hand he still held the white running shoe. When he heard a sound behind him, he spun around again, but the naked man hadn't moved.
"Can you hear me?" he shouted. His voice sounded strained.
Now the man opened his eyes, but he didn't look up. He merely stared off into space in the direction of Lake Superior. Lance noticed that there was also dried blood on his curly blond hair.
Suddenly the man emitted a long-drawn-out wail of despair.
"Are you hurt?" asked Lance. In spite of all the blood, he couldn't see any wounds. He squatted down next to the man. "What happened?"
The man drew his thighs up toward his chest in a protective gesture and wrapped his arms around his legs. He sat there like that, with his forehead resting on his knees as he rocked gently back and forth. Lance was about to put a hand on the man's back to reassure him, but he stopped himself. The man's nakedness made him shy.
"Are you hurt?" he repeated.
Finally the naked man said something, but it was impossible to make out his words, because he spoke with his mouth pressed between his knees, in a voice that sounded shattered. After listening intently for several seconds, Lance realized that the man was speaking a foreign language. And the longer he listened, the more convinced he became that he knew which language it was, because he recognized the intonation. Suddenly he heard quite clearly the word "kjrlighet." This was one of the few words of his forefathers' language that Lance actually knew. He remembered hearing that there were Norwegian tourists in the area. This man was apparently one of them.
The man raised his head and looked him straight in the eye. Lance noticed that his face seemed young and unfinished. His eyes were narrowed and red, and he had three bloody fingerprints on his forehead, under his blond bangs.
"Love" the man said suddenly in English. Just that one word. And then he repeated it. "Love ..." Whispering, hoarse and insistent, as if it summarized and explained everything, as he continued to stare into the eyes of Lance Hansen.
"Are you Norwegian?" asked Lance, without getting a reply.
Now the man caught sight of the running shoe Lance was still holding in his left hand. With great effort he began hauling himself to his feet. It was obvious that he'd been sitting there for a long time, and his muscles had gotten stiff. Finally he was standing upright, with the red hair of his groin level with Lance's face.
Lance quickly stood up as well. "Where are your clothes?" he asked, but the man merely shook his head and started across the rocks toward the path that led to the parking area. He limped along, naked and wearing only one shoe with the laces untied. His butt was as white as chalk compared to the rest of his body.
"Wait a minute" said Lance.
The man stopped. Lance went over to him and squatted down. He held out the white running shoe. The Norwegian obediently stuck his left foot into it. By putting his finger in the heel, Lance managed to get the shoe on the man's foot. Then he tied the laces of both shoes. As he did this, he glanced nervously around, worried that someone might see what he was doing, but no one was there.
"Where are your clothes?" he asked, but again received no reply.
As they walked along the shadow-filled path through the birches, heading for the parking lot, Lance once again put his hand on the holster of his gun. The naked man in front of him couldn't possibly be armed, but he still had the feeling of imminent danger. Something was wrong, something more than the fact that a completely naked, blood-spattered man was walking in front of him on the path. There wasn't so much as a scratch on his body, at least as far as Lance could tell. But all that blood must have come from somewhere, he thought to himself. As soon as the idea appeared in his mind, he realized that the man was covered with someone else's blood.
And it occurred to him that the man must have killed someone.
Up ahead he saw the parking area with his mint-green pickup. He needed to contact the sheriff and call for backup. When they came out into the sunlight shining over the blacktop, Lance could see the slightly wavering mirror image of himself and the naked man in the polished surface of the truck. The man made no sign of pausing at the vehicle. Instead, he seemed determined to keep going across the parking lot and into the woods on the other side. When Lance grabbed his arm from behind to stop him, the man doubled over and tried to protect his head with his free arm, as if he thought he was being attacked.
Excerpted from THE LAND OF DREAMS by VIDAR SUNDSTØL, TIINA NUNNALLY. Copyright © 2008 Tiden Norsk Forlag, Oslo, an imprint of Gyldendal Norsk Forlag AS. Excerpted by permission of University of Minnesota Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Although I really enjoy Scandanavian mystery books, this one was terribly disappointing. Would not at all recommend. Very slow and plodding pace. Mystery story not interesting and never cared about any of the characters. Overall, would like my money back.
What disapointment as you draw to the middle and to the end only to find you will be let down just so the auther can try to sell you another book. BTW . Those names carved on the rocks in grand marais are still there after 100 plus years because the rock is some of the HARDEST on earth not because it is soft! A metaphor of the strength and persistance of those that came before us!
The attraction of this book was it genre and its award collection, for me this was very misleading. The story got off to a good start with the central crime described early on, however from then it turned into a history lesson on Minnesota and Lake Superior Indians. This lesson was broken with self analysis of the main character forest policeman Lance Hansen. I think the author has missed an opportunity to engage and entertain the reader, the plot is sound but is not developed, staying on a very narrow course and the book is bulked with the history and self appraisal. On a positive note the translator has used easy to read language, just a pity it was not more exciting. This book can stay low on your reading list.
This mystery takes place in Schroeder and Tofte, Minnesota. My parents had a summer home in Schroeder, so I am very familiar with the area. A naked, bloody man is found at the foot of Father Baraga's Cross. He is one of two young Norwegians on a canoeing vacation. Who killed his friend? The writing isn't so very good, but the characters are definitely interesting. You get a history of the settlers whose descendants still live in these towns. If you like the North Shore, you will want to read this book. It is the first of a trilogy by a Norwegian writer.
He thought he was doing his job, checking on a report of illegal campers near Baraga's cross, a historical monument, what he did not know was the can of worms he was opening. Lance Hansen walks into a horrific murder scene. All his training as a forest cop, and local genealogist he knows many things about the families around him, but his history is more vague for his own family. This book looks into the individual perspective and how you can view yourself, your family, and the things you hold dear. Lance's struggle to understand the events at Baraga's Cross shows the internal monologue of how the individual copes with death, life and history. How would you struggle between family and community, responsibility and personal ideals Lance finds it overwhelming.