Don't Look Back

Karin Fossum

Norwegian Karin Fossum's Oslo detective Konrad Sejer is one of the Hound's greatest crime fighters.

 

Don't Look Back heralds the arrival of an exotic crime series featuring Inspector Sejer, a smart and enigmatic hero, tough but fair. The setting is a small, idyllic village at the foot of Norway's Kollen Mountain, where neighbors know neighbors and children play happily in the streets. But when the body of a teenage girl is found by the lake at the mountaintop, the town's tranquility is shattered forever. Annie was strong, intelligent, and loved by everyone. What went so terribly wrong?

Doggedly, yet subtly, Inspector Sejer uncovers layer upon layer of distrust and lies beneath the town's seemingly perfect facade.

 

Critically acclaimed across Europe, Karin Fossum's Inspector Sejer novels are masterfully constructed, psychologically convincing, and compulsively readable.

Don’t Look Back begins with every parent’s nightmare: a child who doesn’t come home. Six-year-old Ragnhild Album is on her way home from a friend’s house when she gets a ride from a local man Raymond Låke who lives in the area. When she doesn’t come home, her parents are frantic and call the police. Sejer and local police officer Karlson start an immediate search and everyone is terrified that the worst has happened. But to everyone’s immense relief, Ragnhild returns safely to her home. She tells an odd story, though. She tells her mother that she and Låke saw the body of a young woman near a local tarn. As soon as Irene Album hears this story she calls Sejer to tell him. Sejer immediately returns to the village of Granittveien, where the Album family lives, and he and his assistant Jacob Skarre locate the body and begin an investigation.It turns out that the dead girl is fifteen-year-old Annie Holland, also a local resident. The evidence shows that she drowned but was not sexually assaulted. The evidence also suggests strongly that she knew and probably trusted her attacker because there are also no signs of a struggle. Since Annie Holland was an athlete, there would have been a struggle if a stranger had attacked her. This means that Sejer and Skarre will have to look among Annie’s friends and relations for the killer.

This is a police procedural, so we follow along as Sejer and Skarre interview witnesses and suspects, make sense of the evidence and put together the truth about the crime. That said, though, much of the action happens in the village of Granittveien, so one could also argue that this is a “quiet village murder.”

Konrad Sejer is a widower with an adult daughter, Ingrid, and a grandson on whom he dotes. Sejer is intuitive, thoughtful and intelligent. And he is refreshingly free of many of the stereotypical traps into which so many fictional detectives fall. He’s not a drunk, he’s not a maverick who goes his own way once too often, and he’s not depressive. He is of course saddened by the loss of his wife, and that tragedy has given him an insight into the characters he has to deal with in this novel. But he is more complex than far too many “cookie cutter” detectives are.

Readers who prefer thrillers or a fast pace will be disappointed but the quiet and somewhat slow pace suits the tone of the novel.

The mystery is believable and the killer has a credible motive. Sejer and Skarre solve the case in a believable way, too.

Readers who enjoy somewhat unsettling psychologically-oriented novels that show multiple facets of human nature will be happy. A quiet, sad novel with a believable mystery and an appealing detective, Don’t Look Back gives a picture of life in a small Norwegian town and what happens to that town when real tragedy strikes.

Review by Margot Kinberg, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist

About Karin Fossum:

Karin Fossum is a Norwegian author of crime fiction, often known there as the "Norwegian queen of crime". She lives in Oslo. Fossum was initially a poet, with her first collection published in 1974 when she was just 20. It won the Tarjei Vesaas' Debutant Prize. She is the author of the internationally successful Inspector Konrad Sejer series of crime novels, which have been translated into over 16 languages. She won the Glass key award for her novel "Don't Look Back", which also won the Riverton Prize, and she was shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger in 2005 for "Calling Out For You".