IN THE DARKNESS
Karin Fossum , sometimes called the “ Norwegian Queen of Crime,” is one of Scandinavia’s foremost crime writers. Her Inspector Konrad Sejer series first appeared in 1995 and now runs to ten. Publication in English began in 2002 with “Don’t Look Back”, chronologically second, and now at last we have the book that first introduced Sejer.
Fossum is different. A published poet at 20, she has worked as a nurse and in drug rehabilitation, and is noted for her empathy with the perpetrators as well as the victims of crime. Her books are thought provoking and often explore a particular theme. Here, for example she examines the notion of prostitution as a career choice. Her style is understated and deceptively simple but compelling.
She tends to base her stories in small rural communities rather than the big city and the crimes are, relatively, uncomplicated but often with unforeseen consequences and a surprise twist in the end. She views many of those involved as ordinary people pushed over the edge.
Her detectives play somewhat of a subsidiary role, with little focus on their private lives and thoughts except in so far as they advance the plot. In Sejer there is none of the brooding male detective encountered in Nesbo or Mankel, or closer to home. Indeed Fossum has said of Sejer that he is not intended to be a major character but is “in the book because he has a job to do.”
Originally entitled “Eva’s Eyes”, most of the book is told through the eyes of an artist, Eva Magnus. Walking by the river with her daughter they see a body floating to the surface. He is identified as a man missing for months, throughout the Norwegian winter, for whom the trail has gone cold. He went missing around the same time as the murder of a prostitute, still unsolved, but efforts to link the two have proved fruitless.
Following a break Sejer finds the common thread and begins to put the pieces together. For all her dismissiveness of him, he emerges in these pages as formidable and worldly-wise.