If I’d been paying attention I probably wouldn’t have downloaded this particular book even though I’m a huge fan of Karin Fossum’s because stories told from the perspective of the killer are not one of my favourite things. But I started listening to Sean Barrett’s delightful narration (I admit I have a bit of a crush) before realising that this was one of those books and by the time I worked that out I was hooked. In an efficiently told (though somewhat confronting) opening set piece Fossum introduces us to our murder victim and her killer and even provides the motivation for the heinous act. Having taking care of in a few pages the things most crime novels require a whole book to resolve, she moves on to the issue of what consequences, if any, the murderer will incur either legally or…cosmically…for want of a better word. Given its unusual focus the book is probably not for everyone but I thought it a terrific read (listen).
Charlo Torp, the murdering anti-hero of the story, is a well drawn character, giving weight to my claim that characters don’t have to be likeable to engage me. He’s not a foaming-at-the-mouth killer (that would have been dull) but rather an ordinary man who has made a mess of his life and chooses the most unpleasant escape route imaginable. But that’s the point of him…you can imagine a real person (hopefully not yourself or anyone you know) doing exactly what he does out of … desperation … narcissism…a lost grip on reality. I think it would be impossible to like Torp and I couldn’t really feel too sorry for him even though his troubles were not all of his own making but I did find myself captivated by his narrative and his ability to convince himself of his good qualities. At one point he even tries to measure his worthiness by awarding points for each good and bad act of his life…a subjective exercise indeed but a fascinating insight into his character.
My favourite part of the novel though is the final third which introduces Fossum’s series hero, Inspector Sejer. In this novel his role is smaller than usual as the traditional investigation is not described for readers, though we become aware that it has been going on off-set as it were. But when Sejer arrives to interview Torp, first quite cordially and then more insistently, we see a master at work. His interview style is very low key but demonstrates a man who understands what makes people – especially the criminals he has dealt with all his working life – really tick.
At the time I thought the ending of the novel was a little abrupt but I can’t now imagine what else there was to say so perhaps that was just a product of my being wrapped up in the excellent narration. Most of the questions posed by the novel are at least partially answered and if the big cosmic question about justice being served is not entirely dealt with that is probably as it should be. I guess Fossum fans won’t need any encouragement to read the novel, but I can see myself recommending this to people who aren’t die hard genre fans too.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Translator James Anderson
Translator Sean Barrett
Publisher Random House Audio 
Length 7 hours 49 minutes
Book Series #7 in the Inspector Sejer series (though released in English completely out of order)
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