What the blurb says: “Eighty-two years old, and recently widowed, ex-Marine Sheldon Horowitz has grudgingly moved to Oslo with his granddaughter and her Norwegian husband. When Sheldon witnesses the murder of a neighbour in his apartment complex, he rescues the woman’s six-year-old son and decides to run. Pursued by the Balkan gang responsible for the murder and the Norwegian police, he has to rely on training from over half a century before to try and keep the boy safe. Against a strange and foreign landscape, this unlikely couple, who can’t speak the same language, start to form a bond that may just save them both.”
Beautifully crafted, this novel is a real treat.
Sheldon is a man haunted by his past, by the people he has loved (and lost) and, having uprooted from New York to Oslo, is more than a little baffled by the world he now inhabits. He’s cynical, stubborn, begrudges the aging process and (according to his grand-daughter) is experiencing dementia. He’s also very funny.
But his uneasy routine is upended when he witnesses the murder of his neighbour. Fearing that the man responsible will harm the woman’s young son, Sheldon takes the boy on the run. Together they cross the city and make their way towards the only other place Sheldon is familiar with, his grand-daughter’s woodland cabin.
Divided from his young charge by age and by language, Sheldon draws on his memories to sustain him in this dangerous quest. He recalls his previous training as a Marine, and the advice of those who’ve been important players in his life, to help communicate with the young boy, win his trust and keep him safe. In doing so, Sheldon confronts much of the regret and guilt that he has carried with him for years.
Unconventional methods of transport (and clothing) make their journey into an adventure. But danger is always close behind in the shape of the Balkan gang led by the boy’s criminal father, and one question hangs over the unlikely pair as an ever-present menace: how long can an elderly man and a child evade capture? Sheldon knows that he needs to prepare himself for one final battle.
Norwegian by Night is highly atmospheric, showing Oslo through the eyes of a stranger to both the culture and the modern world. The characters are wonderfully vivid and real. This is a story that can make you laugh and cry on alternant pages.
Both funny and tragic, poignant and pulse-thumpingly suspenseful, Derek B. Miller’s debut novel is hugely compelling and will stay with you long after you have finished reading.
[I bought my copy of Norwegian by Night, in fact I read it on Kindle and then bought the hardback version too!]