From Publishers Weekly
In Fossum's moody and subtle U.S. debut, the fifth in her Inspector Sejer series, the popular Norwegian mystery writer displays her mastery of psychological suspense. Richly drawn characters reveal much about Norwegian society, though the setting, a picturesque valley town northwest of Oslo, isn't distinctive. A little girl disappears from her middle-class neighborhood, then returns home unharmed. Meanwhile, the search party discovers the nude corpse of a teenager, Annie Holland, and Fossum seamlessly shifts the story to a murder investigation, using several points of view to create red herrings that add to the suspense. Both girls lived in the same claustrophobic community where the residents claim to know one another but, naturally, don't really. With few clues and no witnesses, seasoned Inspector Konrad Sejer and his eager young assistant Jacob Skarre must uncover the hidden relationships and secrets they hope will lead to the killer of the well-liked, talented Annie. When they learn that the victim's behavior changed suddenly eight months earlier after a child she babysat died by accident, the plot shifts course again and drives to a stunning conclusion and ominous final scene. With the intuitive, introspective Sejer, a widower who lives alone with his dog and still grieves for his late wife, Fossum has created a fine character whom readers will want to get to know better.
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Insularity, or the loss of it, is at the heart of the Scandinavian crime novel. In Henning Mankel's Kurt Wallander series, it is the opening of Sweden's borders and the collapse of insular homogeneity that breeds hatred and murder. In this nicely nuanced, first English translation of celebrated Norwegian author Fossum's work, insularity turns upon itself, as the residents of a small village where everyone knows too much about everyone else are torn asunder by the murder of a much-loved 15-year-old girl. Inspector Sejer, an aging, secretive cop still grieving for his late wife, accepts the distasteful job of cajoling secrets from the tight-lipped townspeople. Fossum expertly evokes the palpable tension beneath the surface of a seemingly idyllic community, as the characters' various psychological ticks are probed delicately but with devastating effect by the determined investigator. A disturbing ending, fraught with ambiguity, leaves the reader as unsettled as the shell-shocked villagers. Add another memorable series to the growing list of superb European procedurals. Bill OttCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved