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by Karin Fossum and Charlotte Barslund, trans.
Harcourt, August 2008
266 pages
ISBN: 0151015279

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Ida Joner is a beautiful nine-year-old girl who is the shining light in her mother, Helga's, life. When Ida sets out on her bicycle one day and doesn't return, Helga fears the worst. She's always had a feeling that something terrible would happen to Ida. The small community in which they live immediately begins a massive search, but there is no trace of Ida or her bicycle. Helga leans heavily on her sister, Ruth, and her ex-husband, Anders. Helga's sister is having familial troubles of her own. Her son, Tomme, has had a car accident and has been hanging around with a suspected drug dealer, Willy Oterhals, who is repairing the vehicle. Tomme's behavior at home is difficult; Ruth is increasingly beginning to believe that he is lying to her and may be involved in drug deals.

Helga doesn't want to involve the police but finds that her doubts are unfounded when she is interviewed by Inspector Konrad Sejer who is oddly comforting in her time of grief and worry. It isn't long before Ida's bicycle is found, but that discovery doesn't provide any evidence that helps the investigation. It's many days later before Ida's body is found placed by a roadside. She doesn't appear to have been hurt; she is clothed in an expensive nightie and carefully wrapped in a pretty white duvet.

The hunt ultimately leads to a local man, Emil Johannes Mork, who is somewhat mentally disabled. He is capable of speaking only one word, "No." I feared that Fossum was going to fall into the cliché of having the strange, mentally challenged loner be the ultimate villain. However, Fossum steered the narrative in directions other than the expected as far as that was concerned. In particular, I admired her treatment of Emil's mother and her efforts on behalf of her son.

I struggled at first with the translation, which seemed somewhat stilted. Fortunately, once I got into the flow of the book that wasn't an issue. Frankly, I found the plot to be very predictable and the author's efforts to cast suspicions on some of the characters to be somewhat heavy-handed. However, all of that was completely secondary for me because I was so impressed by the characterization of Konrad Sejer. He is a remarkable man, a calming influence in an investigation, something of a loner himself but extremely empathetic and intuitive. His second in command, Jacob Skarre, clearly admires Sejer's approach and attempts to emulate him as best he can.

The author's skill in developing the characters in the book made the fifth book in this excellent series well worth reading.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, September 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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