Inspector Sejer must track down a sinister figure who fled from the scene of a terrible crime.
Walking through the woods one warm September day, Reinhardt and Kristine Ris pass a man who is in a state of agitation. Unusually in a small town, he does not return Kristine’s smile and drives off in a hurry. As the couple continue on their walk they make a terrible discovery: lying in a cluster of trees is the lifeless body of a young boy. It is a moment that will change their lives forever.
Inspector Sejer is called to the scene, but can find no immediate cause of death. As the weeks go by, the appeal for the man seen in the woods to come forward remains unanswered. A once peaceful community is deeply shaken, and the children lose the sense of complete freedom they once enjoyed. Then a second boy goes missing . . . .
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Karin Fossum made her literary debut in Norway in 1974. The author of poetry, short stories and one non-crime novel, it is with her Inspector Sejer Mysteries that Fossum has won greatest acclaim. The series has been published in twenty-six languages.From The Washington Post:
From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Reviewed by Maureen Corrigan It's a mark of Karin Fossum's writerly magnificence that even though her latest crime novel, "The Water's Edge," revolves around what is at the moment the most recycled plot in both mystery and literary fiction -- a missing and/or murdered child -- it still manages to be an intelligent thriller. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, but if you get sent as many review copies as I do (upward of 100 books a week) and see that roughly one out of every 10 has something to do with dead children, you develop a knee-jerk prejudice against any book that hawks this grisly subject. One thing, though, that immediately sets Fossum's fine mystery apart from other, merely sensational variations on this story line is its self-consciousness. Fossum's detectives, Inspector Konrad Sejer and his second in command, Jacob Skarre, intermittently pause in their investigations to ponder their own fascination with horror. Maybe their ruminative personalities owe something to the chill, dark Norwegian climes where they operate. Whatever the cause, loopy-but-philosophical conversations like this one (which takes place immediately after the discovery of the first victim, 7-year-old Jonas Lowe) are common throughout "The Water's Edge," as well as throughout the five preceding novels in the Sejer series: " 'Why are we so drawn to the death of others?' Skarre asked. . . . " 'I'm not drawn to death,' [Sejer] said. 'Are you?' " 'But we chose this profession,' Skarre said. 'The murder of Jonas is a dreadful event. Others could have dealt with it, and we could be doing a much nicer job. . . . You could have been a pastry chef. You could have spent your whole day decorating cream cakes. . . .' " 'I could never have been a pastry chef,' Sejer declared. 'Cream cakes are pretty to look at, but they have no stories to tell.' " The cosmic mystery of why nearly everybody -- our fictional detectives, as well as we, their flesh-and-blood readers -- is drawn to stories of death is one that "The Water's Edge" implicitly investigates. In the opening pages, a middle-aged couple go for their regular Sunday walk to a wooded lake and stumble upon Jonas's body. Shaken, the wife, Kristine, sinks down by a tree. Her husband, Reinhardt, takes out his cellphone and calls the police. Then, Kristine notices that Reinhardt has knelt by the corpse and, for a moment, she thinks her normally gruff husband is crying. But the truth is more dismaying: Reinhardt is taking photos of poor Jonas with his cellphone. We readers share Kristine's revulsion at the same time that the scene makes us aware of our own curiosity about the details of Jonas's murder. After all, even if we're not taking the photographs, we're looking, aren't we? As "The Water's Edge" explores the voyeurism inherent to crime fiction, it also tells two absorbing stories. The first focuses on the detective work generated by Jonas's death and, subsequently, the disappearance of another boy from the same area. Like the well-ripened queens of psychological suspense to whom she is inevitably compared -- Ruth Rendell and P.D. James -- the younger Fossum charts this excursion into the unthinkable with poetic restraint. In describing the detectives' fruitless search for clues to Jonas's murderer, Fossum's omniscient narrator sounds like the voice of a Norse god, stoically commenting on human frailty: "His mother's warnings had been brushed aside, barely noticeable, like the trace of a feather across a cheek and Jonas had discarded his stick and got into a stranger's car. People are unpredictable creatures, they invent rules which they break incessantly and they follow impulses which they later cannot explain." The second (and, to my mind, even more spellbinding) story here chronicles the rapid erosion of Kristine's and Reinhardt's marriage in the wake of their grim discovery. The girlish Kristine, we learn, has always lived in what Emily Dickinson called a marital state of "soft Eclipse" ("I'm 'wife' -- I've finished that") in relation to the manipulative Reinhardt. But, seeing Reinhardt take those repugnant pictures loosens an anger in Kristine and, day by day, she finds herself allowing smothered ambitions to resurface. In a masterly narrative stroke guaranteed to make longtime followers of the Inspector Sejer series gasp out loud, Fossum intertwines her two divergent story lines in the very final paragraph of this slim-but-dense marvel of a mystery.
Copyright 2009, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.
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