Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Drowned Boy – Karin Fossum

Crime Fiction 3*s
Psychological Thriller

This is my second read in the Inspector Sejer series of which this is the eleventh in the series and after reading The Murder of Harriet Krohn last year, I had high hopes.

The story starts strongly with Inspector Sejer visiting a young couple whose sixteen month old son Tommy has drowned in a pond at the bottom of their garden. Tommy had been sat naked, one hot August day. His nineteen year old mother Carmen was busy preparing lunch and attending to household chores while his twenty year old father Nikolai was in the basement fixing bicycle. While Carmen was rinsing socks in the bathroom Tommy used his new-found walking skill and toddled to the water’s edge, by the time Carman located him he was in the water and despite the couple’s best efforts to revive him, he was dead.

Inspector Sejer relies on his intuition and although the mother, Carmen, weeps copiously and her husband Nikolai is in shock, much quieter, but clearly devastated, he suspects there is more to the accident than Carmen is letting on and is determined to find the truth.

I’m not sure whether it was the translation or the original writing but this story felt a bit flat to me with the limited outcomes to the story being obvious from the start and the characterisation simply didn’t shine through as they had in her previous novel (the translator’s for each book were different.) This wouldn’t have been a problem, as I think this author’s style is far more of the ‘slow burn’ variety but with no real depth to the characters, I felt that the powerful nature of the story didn’t come through as strongly as it could have.

The underlying premise of the book examines the ripple effect of a tragic incident. Not only for the parents, Carmen’s devoted father Marian, the police and to some extent everyone who crossed the path of this family were touched by the tragedy. It also examines our expectation of parenthood. Tommy had been born with Down’s syndrome and part of Sejer’s investigation led him to question himself and his Christian colleague Skarre on whether they would want a pregnancy to continue if tests indicated this before birth. These are huge questions and uncomfortable ones. The discomfort only gets worse when we witness through the words of her diary Carmen’s own reaction to her son’s disability, making this a difficult read.

The book is set over a number of months following the incident with the focus being on a court case where Carmen’s account will be judged to see if she was negligent or perhaps worse that day or will the outcome be as she expects and she is exonerated of any wrong-doing on that bright sunny August morning.

For those of you like me that haven’t followed this series from the beginning, don’t worry, this book can be enjoyed in its own right as a stand-alone read.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Random House Vintage imprint for allowing me to read a copy of this book for review purposes ahead of publication on 4 June 2015.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Murder of Harriet Krohn – Karin Fossum

Crime Fiction 4*'s
Crime Fiction

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.