“The Land of Dreams” by Vidar Sundstøl, translated from the Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally
University of Minnesota Press, $24.95, 284 pp.

By David Steinberg
If you are looking for a connection between this crime novel and New Mexico, you will find it hidden in plain sight on the title page.
The connection is not with the title, “The Land of Dreams,” not with the author, Vidar Sundstøl, who is Norwegian nor with the novel itself, which is set along Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior.
The New Mexico connection happens to be with the translator, Tiina Nunnally. She lives in Albuquerque.
That brought me to read the book, and I’m glad I did.
Vidar Sundstol’s engrossing murder mystery kept bringing me back to its pages, despite its multiple investigative strands and its shifting time periods.
The central action is the investigation into the murder of a young Norwegian tourist on a canoeing trip with his friend to Superior National Forest on the North Shore.
These are the investigative strands that the story pulls together – FBI agent Bob Lecuyer, Norwegian crime investigator Eirik Nyland, the Cook County sheriff and Forest Service ranger Lance Hansen, a law enforcement officer.
Hansen is the main focus. He discovers the body and a bloody, naked young man who utters “kjaerlighet,” then says in English, “love.”
Nyland suspects that Hansen may be withholding information. Indeed, Hansen doesn’t tell all. He doesn’t reveal that he saw his brother’s vehicle near the murder site. His silence becomes a subplot that pushes to the surface seemingly peripheral aspects of Hansen’s life – his son and ex-wife, an Ojibwe schoolteacher; the troubles of his brother’s family; a violent incident from his brother’s teen years; a  Hansen ancestor believed to be French Canadian;  and Hansen’s  solitary, driven interest in the history of Cook County.
That interest leads him to dig into the mystery of the disappearance of an Ojibwe man, Swamper Caribou, in the late 19th century. Swamper Caribou may have been murdered at the same spot where Hansen found the young Norwegian’s body more than a century later. There’s more. Swamper Caribou’s murder may be linked to a Hansen ancestor, an immigrant from Norway.
The book’s title may refer to a number of things – the apparitions of a man only Hansen sees,  Nyland’s own family dreams as well as the dreams of Native Americans for their land and those of immigrant families for their new country.
I’m not the only person who liked “The Land of Dreams.” It won the 2008 Riverton Prize, a literary award given annually for the best Norwegian crime story and it was nominated in 2008 for the Glass Key, an award for the best Scandanavian novel.
The novel is not a stand-alone story. It is the first volume of Sundstol’s “Minnesota Trilogy.”
He wrote the trilogy after he and his family had lived on the North Shore of Lake Superior for two years.
Nunnally, the translator, has done translations of Norwegian, Swedish and Danish titles. They include Peter Hoeg’s “Smilla’s Sense of Snow,” “Per Olov Enquist’s “The Royal Physician’s Visit” and Sigrid Undset’s trilogy “Kristin Lavransdatter.”
Nunnally was appointed Knight of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit for her efforts on behalf of Norwegian literature in the United States.

Stay tuned for the next two installments.

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