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BLACK SECONDS
by Karin Fossum
Harvill Secker, August 2007
256 pages
$24.95 CDN
ISBN: 1846550181


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Ida Joner can hardly wait for her tenth birthday, only ten days away. Perhaps she'll finally be given the pet she's so desperately wanted for so long. She most certainly deserves one as her single mother would be the first to agree, Ida is an exemplary child, "too good to last." Alas, so it proves, when Ida mounts her brand-new yellow bicycle and pedals off in search of sweets, never to be seen again.

Fossum's Inspector Sejer series unfolds in a small Norwegian community, the kind of setting that always presents certain difficulties for a crime writer, as there is a limited number of suspects with which to muddy the waters. Fossum's solution is a neat one we are fairly sure who is implicated from early on. What we do not know is motive and in this close-mouthed community, motive will not be easy to discern.

Luckily, Sejer is a patient man and one who understands his community very well. He is content to bide his time, to interview delicately and carefully, confident that he will get there in the end and with minimal damage not only to the family of the missing child, but also to the perpetrators as well, an extraordinary consideration in most police procedurals in English.

My response to this book may well have been coloured by the fact that recently a little girl very much like Ida has gone missing from her home in a small Quebec city and is still not found. Like Ida, she loved animals and desperately wanted a pet. Her bicycle has been recovered, but she has not. Posters bearing her open, innocent, eager face hang everywhere.

In these circumstances, it is a tribute to Fossum's sensitivity that reading this book at this moment never felt either irrelevant or exploitive. The air of deep sadness that rises from it seems absolutely the right note, and Charlotte Barslund's restrained and fluid translation minimizes the distance between Norway and Quebec.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, August 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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