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Archive for January, 2013

Karin Fossum with In the Darkness Cover

Murder Among Friends members gathered on a Nordic—appropriate evening to talk about the first book in Norwegian Crime Queen Karin Fossum’s “Inspector Sejer” series: In the Darkness. All members agreed with one member comment: “It got better and better, and deeper and deeper as the story went on”. We all found that Fossum’s feel for the psychology of her characters, particularly the murderer, was a key strength of the novel. Every character, no matter how brief their role, was three-dimensional and strongly believable.
Another member pointed out how Fossum’s narrative after the car accident points to the main theme of the novel: everybody is capable of murder. We talked about how skillfully Fossum draws the reader into the journey to the dark side that a sympathetic character can take. One member found a wonderful passage on this topic on p. 256:

Eva and her father are talking about the dark side of human nature. ‘It’s a sort of threshold they cross’ he said pensively. ‘I wonder what it is, what it means. Why some people overstep it, and others could never dream of doing so.’
‘Everyone can” Eva said. ‘It’s circumstances which dictate. And they don’t step over either – they stray over. They don’t see it until they’re on the other side, and then it’s too late.’

We all learned that Oslo-area Inspector Sejer’s name is pronounced “Say-ear” and, in keeping with the variety of Scandinavian characters portrayed, it is Danish. We liked his empathy for the people he dealt with whether they were suspects, witnesses or victims. He shows a kind understanding that is uniquely nonjudgmental. He actively demonstrates this in getting the mechanic suit for the son of the murdered man, and in his handling of the interrogation of the murderer. He is also on a journey, still trying to deal with the death of his wife eight years ago.

A second theme that resonated with the group was the sad and ironic twist on “do not take justice into your own hands” that is revealed before the end of the story. Fossum shows that while one can empathize with this murderer, how completely in the wrong they are.

Other observations:

  • We thought it was refreshing that the penal system in Norway seems less concerned with punitive measures with its prisoners, than with their potential for rehabilitation. A Norweigan Prison
  • We learned that a knifing that on first hearing sounds needlessly vicious (stabbing 15 times, etc.) is actually the result many times of a person not realizing just how hard it is to kill someone with a knife.Knifing picture
  • We found out that a “Wendy house” is a home-made playhouse.Pictures of Wendy Houses
  • And we had several members ready to jump on the next Inspector Sejer novel: “Don’t Look Back” – which is the novel that Fossum won the prestigious Glass Key award which is awarded annually by the members of Crime Writers of Scandinavia.

    Link to Don't Look Back in catalog

Definitely a series worth pursuing! Please feel free to add any thoughts in our comments section.

On a different topic: we’re starting this year to try to gather titles members are reading that we might want to pick in August for next year’s roster. This time, there were two books mentioned: Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, and Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie. While both have mysterious aspects, they are both in our Fiction collection. Just click on the titles to go to our catalog and request them.

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