15 December 2006

Unexpected Norwegian treat

After taking Dan Conrad's advice and reading Don't Look Back, I went searching for the second of Karin Fossum's mysteries that has been translated into English, He Who Fears the Wolf. Well, I should say that I asked the Northfield library to go searching for it. This copy came from the library in Grand Meadow, Minnesota. I had to look up Grand Meadow to find out where it is. (It's a lake Wobegon-sized town about half way between Rochester and Austin in the southeastern part of the state.) Thank you, good people and librarian of Grand Meadow.

The book was an unexpected treat. I expected Fossum to follow up Don't Look Back with another "Inspector Sejer Mystery" (as the cover advertises). I enjoyed that one.

That's part of what is in this book. Inspector Sejer and his young assistant are once again investigating a murder in rural Norway. Once again the Fossum has a good story to tell and does it well. It's not quite as clinical as the earlier book, but that only makes it better. Widower Sejer is attracted to a woman for the first time since his wife died. That's all that's in this book: he's attracted and troubled and confused.

The unexpected treats are the wonderfully evocative descriptions Fossum writes of the people in the stories that make up this book. Even minor characters were described in ways that let me create very clear images of them. Maybe she did that in the earlier book and I wasn't noticing. This time I noticed. Each time a character was introduced I quickly had a mental picture in my mind of a realistic person. Fossum has a great skill for noticing and describing characteristics. I really enjoyed this book for that treat.

I also enjoyed the characters and a second complicated story within this book. There's a murder, an escaped mental patient, a run away boy, a bank robbery, and a getaway with a hostage. Not only are these characters vividly described, their stories are dramatically told.

Fossum's first person account of schizophrenia is frightening. I have no way of knowing how realistic it is, but it's dreadful. The bank robber and the runaway have their own problems, and they get presented in first person accounts as well. The bank robber is not as dramatically presented, and he's the least believable of the characters. But Fossum presents seven major characters in this book and gives unexpected depth to five of them. Given the cardboard prop characters that show up in many mysteries, that's quite an accomplishment.

So, this book was an unexpected treat. I highly recommend it.

Next, I'll have to ask the Northfield library to go searching for another Karin Fossum book.

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