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I'M TRAVELING ALONE
by Samuel Bjørk and Charlotte Barslund, trans.
Viking, February 1970
388 pages
$29.95
ISBN: 0525428968


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Samuel Bjørk (the pen name of Norwegian novelist, playwright and singer/songwriter Frode Sander Øien) weaves the threads of the plot so that the design they suddenly make is a surprise that nevertheless makes perfect sense. I'M TRAVELLING ALONE offers plot twists that seem fruitful, then lead nowhere. In effect, a reader participates in the frustrations of the investigators as they work to solve a series of child murders before the murderer can strike again.

Dramatis personae: Mia Kruger, top-flight and suicidal burned-out police investigator who is planning on taking her life on the birthdate of her dead sister; Holger Munch, police investigator whose wife has left and whose boss has sent him to the provinces for failing to be a team player; a man with an eagle tattoo, mysteriously associated with the murders; Gabriel Mørk, a teen hacker who operates on the wrong side of the law and recruited by Munch for his talents; Pastor Simon, cult leader who believes that he is God; Lukas, Simon's right-hand man, who believes that Simon is God; a woman with two-colored eyes who works at a nursing home where Munch's mother is; beautiful little girls, dressed in doll's clothing, and all dead.

The day before Mia has decided to commit suicide, her former police buddy, Holger Munch, pays a personal visit to the place where Mia has hidden herself. Munch has been tasked with finding a killer of little girls before the killer strikes again. She reluctantly agrees, and readers follow these two characters to Hønefass, Norway and through a police procedural plot which eventually uncovers the murderer. Before we get there, however, Bjørk sets a quick pace that kept this reader reading. A young boy discovers a girl trapped in a cult compound in the woods. He makes his way into the compound, then disappears. Mia's sometime friend is a director of theatre, and her current work, a Shakespearean play, mirrors some aspects of the child murders. Munch's mother is at a nursing home and has donated money to a strange religious cult. And Mia seems intent on drinking herself to death. She can no longer bear the idea that her sister left her for a rather disgusting species of humanity who turned her on to heroin, of which she died.

Just as Mia seems on the edge of death and Munch goes off on another of his wild goose chases, Munch's boss intervenes at the police headquarters, tries to sieze hold of an investigation that seems to him to be going off the rails, and alienates everyone there who knows and understands the investigation. Meanwhile, another child is kidnapped…

Bjørk's novel, ultimately, is about family ties that both bind and destroy. It is also to an extent about mavericks who use thought, intuition, and hunches (in our metric-driven society) to stop evil that may be among us.

§ Cathy Downs is professor of English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and a fan, as well, of the well-turned whodunit.

Reviewed by Cathy Downs, January 1990

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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