The opportunity to read Karin Fossum’s first novel in her series about Inspector Sejer is very welcome. Originally published in 1995, In The Darkness already contains all the elements that are familiar to readers of this excellent Norwegian novelist. As with the second couple of novels (chronologically), there is more about Sejer as a character, and about the police team, than there is in more “fabular”, abstract, recent books in the series.
The tale here, as readers familiar with Fossum will expect, is deceptively simple: Eva and her six-year-old daughter Emma discover the body of a man in the river one night. Although Eva tells her daughter she has called the police, in fact she has not. Later, however, another person reports seeing the body, and so Inspector Sejer awards himself the case.
In his characteristic laid-back but observant style, Sejer has befriended the widow and young son of the dead man, who has been missing for six months. Unable to progress, but now knowing he has a murder case on his hands, he decides to look into the only other case of unnatural death that has been reported to the police in the past year. Sejer’s slow but methodical investigation gradually brings to light some small clues that he can follow up. Whether or not the two cases are linked becomes gradually clear to the reader, but the author keeps some surprises up her sleeve.
The book is in two halves: the first half tells the story of the investigation and of Eva’s life from the point of discovery of the man’s body; the second is from Eva’s perspective of previous events, providing a rich psychological portrait of a woman struggling to make ends meet without compromising her artistic integrity, and retain her sanity, in the wake of a divorce and some very stressful life-events. The details of small-town life, together with the touching portrait of two lonely widowers (Sejer and Eva’s father) adjusting to a solitary existence, are very moving and beautifully observed. The book is not without humour, particularly in a scene about an unconventional hiding place Eva is forced to use, which will be familiar to readers of Headhunters (written much later) by Jo Nesbo, another Norwegian crime author.
The author wastes no words in telling her tightly plotted story with its hidden depths, ensuring that the reader will be haunted by it, and Eva’s struggles in particular, for some time after finishing it.
I obtained this book from Amazon Vine.
Euro Crime: The Inspector Sejer series in order, with links to reviews.