Land of Hidden Fires

Written by Kirk Kjeldsen

Fifteen-year-old Kari Dahlstrom witnesses an American plane going down in 1943 in German-occupied Norway. Her widowed father, Erling, tells her to ignore it, but she disobeys and locates the pilot, Lance, and offers to guide him to Sweden. Oberleutnant Conrad Moltke is a disgruntled German officer, longing to be where the real action is in North Africa rather than chasing after downed pilots in this Norwegian backwater. And Sverre, a former neighbor of the Dahlstroms, intends to gain German favor by informing, and maybe getting his land back as a result. Erling discovers Kari missing and sets off to find her. The story follows the four different parties trekking through the Norwegian backcountry in winter, each bent on capturing or trying to avoid being captured. When they come together in the climax, the unexpected happens.

Kjeldsen does a beautiful job of describing the Norwegian landscape: “thin bands of clouds appeared on the horizon in violet and peach-colored waves.” The reader will be soaked in the winter atmosphere. A plot point confused me, though. Would people trying to escape capture in wartime light fires and shoot off forbidden firearms to kill game? I would think that no matter how hungry they were, it would be too risky to draw that much attention to their location. The book has a printing glitch—there are several pages where alternate lines of type are in slightly different sizes, enough to notice and be jarring to the eyes trying to scan the page. Readers who like World War II stories, and those who appreciate lyrical descriptions along with an exciting plot, will enjoy this novel.