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Don't Look Back (Inspector Sejer Mysteries) Hardcover – March 8, 2004

4.1 out of 5 stars 157 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; First Edition edition (March 8, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151010323
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151010325
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,051,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
After being widely translated in Europe, it's about time that Fossum's excellent police procedurals are becoming available in English. Unfortunately this first book in translation is the fifth in the series, and so a bit of the background is lacking. The story starts with the disappearance of a young girl in a small Norwegian village, but adroitly segues into a murder investigation as the search for the girl turns up an unrelated naked corpse. The town is one of several small communities served by the city police, and grizzled Inspector Sejer and his younger partner Skarre are assigned to the case.
This is above all a psychological mystery, as Sejer and Skarre carefully poke and prod the small community, where everyone knows everyone else, in order to unravel the tale that led to the killing of a well-liked teenage girl. Although the townspeople have plenty of skeletons in their closets, the story never strays into cliché, as it might have under a less assured hand. Sejer is a placid and cunning detective of late middle age, living alone with his dog after being widowed (again, one senses that his personal life has been detailed in previous books). He bears a certain similarity to Det. Inspector Charlie Resnick, the protagonist of John Harvey's long-running Nottingham procedural series. Skarre works well as his younger, more informal partner, slightly treading on eggshells around his more experienced superior.
With no forensic evidence, no witnesses, and no apparent motive, there's little for them to go on. Thus, Sejer and Skarre spend the whole novel interviewing and reinterviewing everyone who knew the girl and might have seen something.
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Format: Hardcover
This fifth book in the Norwegian Inspector Konrad Sejer series, but the first to be published in the US, begins with the most chilling of scenes: 6-year-old Ragnhild accepting a ride from a strange, too eager man. Next we cut to her distraught, terrified mother being gently questioned by Sejer, who shares her dread.
But this scenario does not have the expected conclusion. The search party combing nearby Kollen mountain turn up the naked body of a local teenager, and Ragnhild is deposited on her doorstep by the lonely Downs-syndrome boy who had taken her to his home.
It's a small, close, valley community where everyone knows everyone else, though not as well as they think they do. The dead girl, Annie, had been bright, outgoing and well liked by everyone. Sure, she'd been subdued, even a bit withdrawn in the last few months, but her family and friends put it down to adolescence. Sejer thinks she had a secret.
As he and his assistant, young Jacob Skarre, begin to probe, they peel away layers of deception and self-deception, uncovering cracks and chasms under the tranquil surface. No surprise to Sejer, there are lots of secrets in this respectable, idyllic village, starting right in Annie's family. And there's the boyfriend - brutalized into passivity, he hardly seems her type.
Fossum is particularly adept at revealing character through details. A neighbor views Sejer's approach: "He assumed a strained expression, but then realized that this might make them suspicious; so he pulled himself together and tried a smile instead. Then he remembered that Annie was dead, and went back to the strained mask.
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Format: Paperback
By everyone's accounts, Annie Holland was a well-adjusted and responsible teen. A terrific athlete as well as the neighborhood's favorite baby-sitter, she mysteriously becomes withdrawn with no apparent provocation. She quits the handball team, and her boyfriend and parents can't quite understand what's behind the sudden transformation. Less than a year later, her dead body is discovered by a lake, her clothes piled beside her. Devoid of evidence that indicates struggle or rape, Chief Inspector Sejer is forced to dig into Annie's recent past and a neighboring family's tragedy to piece together the events of a November morning that deeply affected Annie and led to her death.

The first of Karin Fossum's Norwegian police procedurals to be translated into English, "Don't Look Back" is quite subdued when compared to its American counterparts. The focus here is on the characters and not so much the action. Although not very original, it is nonetheless realistic in its portrayal of police work as the plodding and rather repetitive activity that it often is. To wit, our patient but shrewd protagonist, Konrad Sejer, with his partner Det. Skarre, find themselves interviewing the same people several times and pounding the pavement to uncover the circumstances behind the teenager's murder.

"Don't Look Back" starts out slowly and the re-interviewing of suspects and potential witnesses does become dreary after awhile. However, the story is continually rejuvenated whenever the author shifts the focus on the character's back-stories. The characters are brought to life by moving accounts of children who've been abused, a chief inspector who's still grieving for his dead wife, and a desperate couple at the end of their tether with a difficult child.
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