First things first: I have to credit Florida writer Glynn Marsh Alam, creator of the Luanne Fogarty Mysteries, with turning me on to Norwegian writer Karin Fossum. I met Glynn at the Cape Fear Crime Festival and we shared our favorite authors. Once I started on Fossum’s Inspector Sejer series, I gobbled them up, and I promise, you will, too.

Fossum has written poetry and general fiction but her award-winning crime novels have now been translated into sixteen languages. Her inspector has been dubbed “the Morse of the fjords” as he uses his intellect, reasoning, and knowledge of human nature to solve the crimes that fall across his path. Fossum’s coastal Norwegian settings and small villages are brought to life, but the novels are character-driven, as she displays an understanding of the psychology of her characters, as does Sejer, and writes from the points of view of all the main participants. For some reason, two of the Sejer novels remain untranslated, but the publication dates I’ll give you are the US editions. Today’s blog will cover the first three. While you can read them and enjoy them in any order, you follow the trajectory of Sejer’s personal life if you read them in order. He is extremely likableand appealing, conflicted in veryhuman ways, and very fond of his huge Leonberger, Kollberg.

2002 Don’t Look Back:    This novel won both The Riverton Prize and the Glass Key for Best Nordic Detective Novel.

In a rural village such as the ones most of Fossum’s characters inhabit, a young child, Ragnhild, goes missing. The frantic search for her reveals the naked, dead body of a well-known and well-liked schoolgirl. Annie often babysat for most of the families on her road; she was strong and intelligent.  Investigating her untimely death are Inspector Konrad Sejer and his colleague Jacob Skorre, both likable, but distinctly different. As he investigates, Sejer uncovers layers of distrust that run through the village. From page one, Fossum has the reader hooked with a tension that never lets up. Annie is drawn for Sejer in the words of the people he interviews. He tried to reconstruct the murder by retracing Annie’s last moments and chillingly succeeds. The book is filled with the crisscrossed stories that maintain the tension, as the patient Sejer unravels the stories and red herrings of people’s secrets with the ones that lead to Annie’s murderer.

2003 Hear Who Fears the Wolf:           Errki is a schizophrenic who escapes from a mental institution and is seen in the area when the horrifically murdered body of elderly widow Halldis Horn is found on her doorstep.

A young obese boy who lives in a nearby group home find the body and alerts the police. The case swings into action just as Sejer is literally thrust into the middle of a bank robbery with a hostage taken that  same morning. Trying not to be sidetracked by the hostage situation, Sejer and Skarre begin to track down both criminals. As he searches for these strange criminals, Sejer comes up against small-town prejudices that twist every version of the information he seeks to collect. Fossum’s gives the reader extraordinary insight into the psychologically warped mind and the lives which have been marginalized because of it. She is every bit as good as getting inside the psyche of children or adults.

2004 When the Devil Holds the Candle: 

This novel won the Gumshoe Award for Best European Crime Novel.

Two teenaged punks steal a young mother’s purse with dramatic and unforeseen consequences. The events they set into action tie what at first appear to be loose threads and unrelated perspectives, but are skillfully woven in Fossum’s hands.

When one of the delinquent’s disappears, Sejer doesn’t immediately connect the two crimes. The chilling and awful truth unfolds inside an old woman’s home. Fossum has Sejer do his usual digging beneath the surface of the quiet life in the small towns she features in her novels. It is to her credit that she understands how chillingly violence destroys everyday life, and that she is able to bring these places and these characters to life.

In subsequent blog I’ll discuss the next 3 Sejer novels available in the US, but don’t wait! Get started now on a series you’ll find impossible to put down.

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