Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Norwegian writer impresses local man

At the recommendation of my former colleague Peter (Detectives Beyond Borders), I just read Karin Fossum's "He Who Fears the Wolf." I recently decided I needed to broaden my reading list to include more female authors and more foreign ones. Fossum, with her stalwart fans and arsenal of glowing reviews, seemed like a good place to start.

I had serious doubts during the first scene: a madman in the middle of a major meltdown (possibly incurred by aggressive alliteration). It was, as one review put it, "a harrowing journey inside a warped mind" -- something I get quite enough of just being me.

Fortunately, Fossum's madman turns out not to be the demonic figure so common in the work of lesser writers. By the book's end, he is a character as fully formed as Fossum's series protagonist, Inspector Sejer, and almost as understandable. The story revolves around a bizarre crime and oddball characters, but it's the sympathy with which she crafts those characters that elevates the book beyond the plain-vanilla police procedural. What cinches it for me is that Fossum also has a subtle sense of humor. Dave-Bob says two thumbs up. It's good to have found another author whose books will beckon next time I'm browsing.

3 comments:

Peter said...

A warped mind is like Cancun or Ibiza: Everyone journeys there. Like you, though, I'm not sure that's what Fossum us up to, which is why I liked this novel so much.

I don't have much to say to your comments because you appear to have liked the book for the same reasons I did. Fossum set herself quite a daunting task: to engender sympathy for flawed characters without lapsing into sentimentality, to write of such characters with non-bitter and non-macabre humor, to hold off so long on introducing the supposed protagonist, and to give that protagonist such a small role. If I ever get around to making top-10 lists, this book will find a place.
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Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Dave Knadler said...

Well, I thank you for the recommendation. I enjoyed the book, and I'm sure my brother will too. Have you read all of her stuff?

Peter said...

No, I've read just one of her other books, When the Devil Holds the Candle. That one journeys even more deeply into the warped mind, though with unexpected moments of tenderness and compassion. It's more chilling and thereby, I think, not quite as unexpected as He Who Fears the Wolf. I made a couple of posts about it, including this one: http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/2007/06/karin-fossum-when-devil-holds-candle.html

One of the interesting Fossum-related moments I had came while I was reading Ken Bruen's Calibre. Bruen is about as far removed in temperament from the typical stolid, introspective Nordic crime novel as anyone could be, yet he heads one of his chapters in Calibre with a quote from He Who Fears the Wolf.
===================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/