In The Darkness / Karin Fossum
London: Harvill Secker, c2012.
This is the newly-translated-but-first-in-sequential-order-novel in the Norwegian detective series featuring Inspector Konrad Sejer. There is only one of the series -- one in the middle -- still left to be translated, but I've read all the others. As this excellent article on the Sejer series says, Scandinavian crime often suffers from TOOO syndrome: translated out of order! That is definitely something that annoys me once I start enjoying a series, but I still enjoyed going back to the beginning with Inspector Sejer in this book. (also check out the same article to see a synopsis of all the books in the series, in order) This choice of cover is strange though, it doesn't tie in to anything in the story.
I find a lot of Scandinavian crime too graphic, too gory, for my tastes. But I've been able to read all of Fossum's work, and do so eagerly, since her focus is really on the psychological and social effects of crime. She covers issues of racism and immigration, misogyny, economic inequality and so on, but does it seamlessly.
In this novel, we meet Inspector Sejer, a calm, competent detective. His moral authority allows him to carefully solve mysteries that at first look seem extremely puzzling. He has a knack of gently but doggedly questioning suspects and following up on every line of inquiry. He does this without grandstanding, or violence, or heavy drinking either!
This novel follows artist Eva, who is out walking with her daughter when they discover a bloated body floating down the river. She runs to a phone booth, telling her daughter to stay put as she calls the police -- only to call her father instead. This is her first suspicious act.
A few more characters enter the fray, but we primarily follow Eva's reactions to the investigation, and Sejer's putting together of many pieces. The middle of the book is a long flashback, wherein we learn what occurred a few months previously, and it is shocking and heart-pounding to read. Fossum's plotting skills are in evidence already with this book, and she is very good at delving into motivations and personalities. I really enjoyed this read, and the ending leads on to the next book -- which I read so long ago I can hardly remember -- but now I want to go back to it and see Sejer's development.
I really recommend this series for thoughtful, engaging crime reading. I'm not a huge fan of the crime genre, especially violent crime, but Fossum creates introspective and socially aware fiction that just happens to also involve crime. It's very, very good, and this novel, though written long ago, is an excellent introduction to this series.