Charlo Olav Torp is in debt, actively hunted by his creditors to pay back the money he owes. Following the death of his wife Inga Lill he has become estranged from his teenage daughter Julie, their only contact reduced to long letters from father to daughter, one of which sets the tone for this novel.
So Charlo comes up with a plan to solve his biggest problems; pay off his debts and to persuade Julie that he is a changed man now that he has stopped gambling which is why on 7 November he is out in the cold weather, feet cold from the falling sleet putting his plan into action and this plan leads him to Harriet Krohn’s front door.
This book is one of the Inspector Sejer series written by Karin Fossum although this is the first book I’ve read by this author. I was surprised at how little exposure the Inspector gets in this outing. The first quarter of the book details in minute detail the night of the murder and its immediate aftermath and I have to be honest, I nearly put this book aside, irritated at the pace and feeling very little of any emotion for Charlo, but I read a few more pages and became hooked. The realisation dawned that this clever author had persuaded me to sympathise to an extent, with a man who had done a terrible deed. When Inspector Sejer makes an appearance it soon becomes apparent that he is of a very different mould to many British detectives, very thoughtful, compassionate but incredibly tenacious.
An unusual reading experience, on the one hand the start was too slow but without the layering of the details of that cold night and the self-pity of Charlo to appreciate the story of a man who is living with guilt. There is a scene where he moves coffee beans into piles to try to work out if he can ever make up enough good deeds to balance out the bad that was done that night, which led me to think about the larger philosophical questions, not bad for a detective story!
I will definitely be looking out for more by this author, I enjoyed the sensitivity of the writing, the way the author elicited not just sympathy, a part of me wanted Charlos to do well, to atone for his terrible actions and have a long and loving relationship with his daughter.
I would like to thank the publishers Random House Vintage for allowing me to have a copy of this book ahead of publication on 5 June 2014 in return for this honest review.