When springtime arrives in picturesque New Bergen, so do the tourists and antiquers. This year, though, there are some unwelcome visitors. Extortion. Arson. And murder.
After his business tanks and his wife leaves him for a Pilates coach, Andy Skyberg flees the big city for the peace and quiet of his hometown. All he wants is a decent job, a steady girlfriend, a plasma screen TV with a hundred-plus channels, and one loyal dog. But fate has something else in store for Andy, when his big mutt King Harald starts sniffing out crime.
King Harald’s Heist chronicles King Harald and Andy Skyberg on their second adventure.
As the leaves begin to change color in New Bergen, Andy Skyberg wants to turn his full attention to his sister’s new café and art gallery—and to the beautiful Finnish architect who’s managing the project.
But the good-natured, go-to guy can’t seem to catch a moment’s peace.
His next-door neighbors—two elderly sisters—want him to fend off a pushy historian who thinks they had a scandalous past. His parents enlist him to entertain a narcissistic, boring couple they would like to ditch. And his ever-scheming Aunt Bev tricks Andy into seeking an improbable new gig that could land him in the hot seat.
A Norwegian Rhapsody
Guest Post by Richard Audry
“November always seemed to me the Norway of the year,” wrote Emily Dickinson to a friend in 1864. Given that she rarely left home, Dickinson no doubt based her impressions on a stereotypical Norway—a snowy, dreary country of fjords and piney forests. I’d like to think that, if she were alive today (and willing to hop on an airplane), she might hold quite a different opinion of this Scandinavian country.
I don’t claim to be an expert on all things Norske, but I do have Norwegian blood in my veins. And I grew up in Minnesota, the state with the highest number of Norwegian-Americans. It was only natural, then, that the town where my cozy mystery series is located would be called New Bergen, and the characters would have last names like Skyberg and Engebretson and Hofdahl. And then there is my sleuth Andy’s sidekick, a jumbo mutt with a nose for crime, who coincidentally has the same moniker as Norway’s monarch—King Harald.
On the menu at Ansel’s Café, the restaurant where Andy works, you probably won’t find lutefisk. This Nordic delight (or disaster, according to some) is created by soaking cod or other whitefish in lye until it comes to resemble Jello in consistency. It is, to say the least, an acquired taste. Even with my Norwegian lineage, I took one taste and I was done.
But you might be able to find salmon sushi on Ansel’s menu in New Bergen. In fact, this fish was introduced to the sushi-loving Japanese in the 1980s by the Norwegians—who were desperate to sell more salmon in the Far East.
Another fun food fact about Norway is that Roald Dahl, a British writer with Norwegian parents, used a famous Norwegian hot chocolate factory, Freia, as his inspiration for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen credited Freia chocolate for providing energy necessary to help him reach the South Pole in 1911, the first man to do so.
You could argue that Norway’s most important contribution to worldwide cuisine might just be a storage facility in the farthest northern reaches, on a remote archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. That’s where the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is located. Known as the Doomsday Vault, it has the capacity to store 4.5 million seed samples and serves as a backup for other seed banks around the world. Should a worldwide catastrophe occur—such as a nuclear winter—precious seed stock from Svalbard will be available to replenish human agriculture.
Ironically, the most beloved food in Norway these days is a commercial frozen pizza called Grandiosa. A cultural phenomenon, it is also roundly despised. Many Norwegians call it their “national dish,” while others say it is “refrigerated evil.”
Given that modern skiing began in Telemark in the 19th century, it’s not surprising that Norway has won more medals in the Winter Olympics than any other country. But what may be surprising is that archeologists who have studied ancient rock carvings estimate that Norwegians may have been skiing 4,000 years ago.
When they aren’t outdoors enjoying winter sports, you might find many Norwegians reading books. Norwegians read more than any other population in the world. And the government encourages this by buying a thousand copies of any book published in Norway for distribution to the country’s libraries. As an author, I’m jealous of those Norwegian writers.
Aquivit is probably the best-known alcoholic beverage in Norway. But, beware. If you’ve had a bit too much of it in Oslo, don’t even think of getting behind the wheel. A DUI in Norway results in an automatic 30-day jail sentence and a loss of license for a year, plus fines of up to ten percent of your yearly income.
If you do get thrown in a Norwegian slammer, though, you might not mind the accommodations. Prisoners in Halden, a high-security facility, are put in cells furnished with a flat screen TV, a private shower, and fluffy towels. I’m not sure if they get regular massages and spa treatments.
And what is there to watch on those flat screens? Well, if you just want to zone out, perhaps one of the popular shows on Norway’s NRK channel might appeal. There’s the eight-hour train ride, the twelve-hour footage of a log burning in a fireplace, and eight hours of salmon spawning.
I’ll bet everyone reading this post would instantly recognize Edvard Munch’s iconic masterpiece—one of the most famous paintings ever. And sometimes you might even feel like the person it depicts.
“One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below,” the Norwegian painter recalled. “I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. I painted this picture, painted the clouds as actual blood. The color shrieked. This became ‘The Scream.’”
A pastel version of “The Scream” (one of four versions made by the artist) was sold in 2012 for $120 million—at the time the highest price ever paid at auction for an artwork.
But don’t worry. If you happen to visit my little fictional town with the Norwegian lineage, the only screaming comes from the occasional murder victim. I guarantee that you will be perfectly safe in New Bergen. Hope you stop by soon.
Richard Audry is the pen name of D. R. Martin. As Richard Audry, he is the author of the King Harald Canine Cozy mystery series and the Mary MacDougall historical mystery series. Under his own name he has written the Johnny Graphic middle-grade ghost adventure series, the Marta Hjelm mystery, Smoking Ruin, and two books of literary commentary: Travis McGee & Me; and Four Science Fiction Masters. You can follow D. R.’s musings at drmartinbooks.com