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When the Devil Holds the Candle (Inspector Sejer Mysteries, Book 4) Hardcover – July 3, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews

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Blue Moon: Mundy's Landing Book Two by Wendy Corsi Staub
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Skillful characterization and revealing detail lift Fossum's third mystery to be published in the U.S. featuring thoughtful, intelligent Insp. Konrad Sejer (after 2005's He Who Fears the Wolf). Handsome Andreas Winther, a self-absorbed, dangerously restless 18-year-old, manages to draw both sympathy and disgust from the reader. He roams the streets of an unnamed provincial Norwegian town in the evenings, accompanied by his socially inept friend, Sivert "Zipp" Skorpe, and fueled by the enormity of a secret he keeps. One evening, after mugging a young mother, Andreas decides to break into an old woman's house to rob her. His intended victim, Irma Funder, has a complicated health situation and a more complicated psyche. In defending herself, Irma pushes Andreas down the cellar stairs, where he lands unnaturally twisted, unable to move but alive. What develops between the immobile boy and the reclusive woman is a bizarre, excruciating, curiously tender relationship that serves as a pathetic and poignant balance to the hunt for Andreas conducted by Sejer and his police colleague, Jacob Skarre. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Fossum's Konrad Sejer procedurals, set in Oslo, are among the many Scandinavian mysteries that have followed Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander series to the U.S. Her first novel to appear here, Don't Look Back (2004), was very much in the world-weary Wallander mold, with Sejer investigating a 15-year-old girl's murder and finding multiple layers of ambiguity. Although Sejer is present again this time, the story is much less like a contemporary European procedural and more like a Ruth Rendell psychological thriller. As Sejer and his colleague Jacob Skarre investigate a mugging and the disappearance of a delinquent, the reader sees what the coppers don't, following the tragic events in the life of the delinquent and the very disturbed elderly woman he encounters. At times this story is almost unendurably painful, as our sense of the inevitable clashes with our uncertainty about the outcome. All of the characters are victims of a kind, and all are trapped in one way or another. We feel equally trapped, by our proximity to so many lives gone wrong, and by our inability to close the book. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 259 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1st edition (July 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151011885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151011889
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,450,978 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The undisputed queen of psychological horror, Norwegian author Karin Fossum takes an up-close view of three deaths in this novel in which Evil touches Inspector Konrad Sejer's own family. Andreas Winther, a handsome 18-year-old of little motivation and less morality, is cruising with his friend Zipp Skorpe when they decide to taunt a small brown boy. The boy is Sejer's adopted grandson Mattheus, a Somali immigrant trying to fit into Norwegian society. Their arrogance and their attitude of being above the rules of society ensure from the outset that they will never be characters with whom the reader will identify as author Fossum deals with broader, more important issues and themes.

Bored, Andreas and Zipp then decide to rob a young woman pushing a baby stroller, and later on to rob a house in which an old woman lives alone. Several deaths occur. Each of these deaths is examined in minute detail from the perspective of the killer (and in one case, the victim), and the question of responsibility and the extent to which the killer intended to kill--and whether that is relevant--are considered from many angles. For each of the three deaths, there are mitigating factors. Anita's killer is regarded by the police as "a good person." The baby's death could be crib death, or any number of other circumstances.

As Fossum pursues her themes and illustrates them vividly through her carefully drawn characters, the book becomes a powerful investigation of evil and its ability to seize and control lives. No one, however terrible his/her crime, is completely evil here, but, as Fossum shows, the justice system can only deal with issues that are black and white. When "justice" eventually resolves each of these cases, few readers will be surprised by the resolution. By turns exciting and thoughtful, dramatic and contemplative, When the Devil Holds the Candle is a fine novel dealing with important themes in new ways. n Mary Whipple
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Format: Hardcover
Considered Norway's "Queen of Crime" for good reason, Fossum's latest thriller is a striking indictment of youthful self-indulgence and the private torments of a broken mind on a collision course with happenstance. Two characters dominate the beginning of the novel, Andreas and Zipp, avid for action, their anti-social behavior fueling drinking bouts, their victims the helpless and unsuspecting. Andreas is tall, handsome, clearly the leader of the pair; Zipp, the moody sidekick, is compact, tense, constantly proving his manhood. Their petty crime spree is spontaneous, entertainment of the moment regardless of the consequences. A more peripheral character, at least at first, Irma Funder is a recluse, shirking social contacts and beset with the paranoia that preys on her sanity, "the hideous, evil person you become when the devil holds the candle."

Through Fossum's masterful plotting, these characters are destined to clash, their futures entwined, Inspector Sejer and his favorite assistant, Jacob Skarre, coming late to a complex series of events, miscalculations and blunders turned deadly. Sejer is enjoying a new lease on life since the untimely death of his beloved wife; the energetic, unpredictable Sara now brightens his days, as does his daughter's newly adopted son, Matteus. The inimitable Skarre lends his intuition to the mix, the two men working through an improbable tangle of seemingly unrelated crimes and a fated meeting with unexpected violence. When Andreas goes missing, there is no trace, in spite of Skarre's careful investigation of the circumstances. Meanwhile, an old woman lurks in the shadows, unable to communicate either her knowledge or her fears.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Norwegian author Karin Fossum shuns convention and spins another offbeat crime novel in "When the Devil Holds the Candle", a refreshingly off-the-beaten track Scandinavian mystery that is as well written as it is quirky.

Andreas Winther is an aimless eighteen-year old, a not uncommon slacker holding down a minimum wage job while flirting with the mildest fringes of crime. Irma Funder is 60ish, a mostly reclusive divorcé with a semi-estranged adult son and memories of a childhood of benign neglect. A young mother walks her four-month old child along Oslo's beach. Guided by Fossum's talented hand, the unlikely crossing of these dissimilar lives makes for an explosive literary feast of suspense and depravity, a novel so rich in conflicting themes, sinister undercurrent, and depth of character that it nearly bursts out of the mere 259 pages that try to confine it. This is a masterpiece of darkness, a somber and psychologically chilling tale that leaves no winners as it takes twists and turns to its unexpected and powerful conclusion.

Drawing parallels to this author's work is mostly futile. Sure, the fatalistic tone recalls Arnaldur Indridason or Jo Nesbo, but living in a cold, damp place with no sun for half of the year probably makes it hard to write like say, Carl Hiaasen. Fossum's plots are fresh and unexpected, her villains unlikely, her settings surrealistic, even haunting. Where most writers deal in blacks and whites and good vs. evil that lead to a clean finish, Karin Fossum's mastery stems from her rich ambiguity.
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