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Dreamless (Odd Singsaker) by Jorgen Brekke
Cover Artist: Cover art: The Nightmare by Henry Fusseli, 1781
Cover photo: Running man by Mark Owen / Trevillion Image;
Clouds by Alexey Repka / Shutterstock.
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Trade Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250080752
Date: 10 January 2017 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Facebook / Show Official Info /

In modern Trondheim, Norway, an unknown woman is found lying dead in the woods. A blanket of snow covers her corpse. Her throat has been slashed, her vocal cords extracted, and a music box placed on her stomach. The music box plays a lullaby that was originally published in Trondheim in 1767. It was written by a minstrel, Christian Wingmark, whose naked corpse was discovered lying on a beach; a large hole is in its stomach where a spear-like implement has impaled it.

Detective Odd Singsaker must discover who in present-day Trondheim is obsessed with the minstrel and his bizarre lullaby. Because a young girl, a choir student, has been abducted and her tormented parents have found a similar music box that plays the same lullaby.

Jorgen Brekke's Dreamless (following his superlative debut, Where Monsters Dwell) is twice the entertainment of most mysteries because it actually consists of two novels in one. You have the present-day crime drama involving the maniac who is kidnapping women and the historical mystery involving the murder of a philandering minstrel who composes and sings beautiful lullabies. The two mysteries alternate with each other. Each mystery ends with a cliff hanger before launching the reader into the other. Furthermore, the novel has a gruesome prologue involving dismemberment and a shocking epilogue; both will sadden and horrify readers.

Each of the two novels in Dreamless has a main character who is an unconventional lawman. Each is hampered by their advanced age and physical disabilities and addictions; they are obsessed with solving their respective crimes. Each craves a beautiful, younger woman and will do anything to win their favor. Chief Inspector Odd Singsaker has had brain surgery and still suffers with memory loss; his American wife, Felicia Stone, is much younger and is struggling to assimilate into Norwegian society. In 1767, Chief Inspector Nils Bayer is an overweight alcoholic; he is in love with a young bar maid, Ingrid Smeddatter, who promises to marry him if he will give up alcohol for one year. Singsaker and Bayer risk their lives and narrowly escape death as they pursue evil murder suspects.

Most of Dreamless occurs during the cold winter months of present-day Norway when snowstorms are obliterating evidence. (The events that occur in 1767 are merely to provide background for the killer's obsession for a lullaby, The Golden Peace, written by a minstrel who is later murdered.) The killer hopes the lullaby will help him cure his insomnia and produce sleep that is full of pleasant dreams. Legend has it that the lullaby's author had numerous pseudonyms around the world, including the Sandman. Because the type of sleep he brings is a type of death, the Sandman is often referred to as the Grim Reaper.

I love Jorgen Brekke's novels for their macabre elements. It may be winter in Trondheim, but there are plenty of flies to be found in the pages of Dreamless. There are swarms of flies. Wherever there is death, one can find the flies. Odd Singsaker enters one room and nearly chokes to death on a cloud of them. Strangely enough, Nils Bayer also encounters swarms of them. Once, I foolishly left a dead rat to rot in my attic and came home after work to discover a literal swarm of flies in my kitchen. It looked like the movie set for The Amityville Horror. The insects had covered the window and the fluorescent ceiling light.

Fans of crime drama and historical mysteries will enjoy the gory, suspenseful Dreamless. You may have nightmares after reading this novel about a deranged, psychopathic killer who tortures his victims. The snow-covered terrain and freezing temperatures lend the story a surreal, dream-like atmosphere. One character finds themself trapped in what they believe is a frozen hell. The novel ends on a tragic note. However, there are numerous, unanswered questions in Odd Singsaker's dramatic personal life--questions that demand a sequel. Thankfully, there is one. I can't wait to read The Fifth Element.

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