by Bruce TierneyJuly 2006
Mystery of the Month
Karin Fossum may not be a household name in the U.S., but in her native Norway, she is Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell and P.D. James all rolled into one. Fossum made her literary debut in 1974, at the tender age of 20, with a volume of poetry. Since then, she has published another volume of poetry, a couple of collections of short stories, a non-crime novel, and (of course) the dark and moody police procedurals set in coastal Norway. Indeed, she has gained quite a bit of popularity in the rest of the world as well: her novels have been published in 16 languages to date. Now she's releasing her third novel in the U.S., When the Devil Holds the Candle. Like the previous two U.S. releases, Don't Look Back and He Who Fears the Wolf, the latest features the introspective Inspector Konrad Sejer. Sejer faces a rival to be reckoned with, an amoral juvenile delinquent named Andreas. Fresh from a mugging in which a young child was killed, Andreas targets an old woman as his next victim. But Andreas does not, indeed cannot, imagine the resourcefulness of this victim, Irma Funder, an elderly woman with a well-developed instinct for survival. Now Andreas lies at the bottom of Funder's cellar stairs, alive but paralyzed, at the mercy of the woman who had so recently been his prey. Early on, Sejer doesn't connect the dots between the murder of the child and the disappearance of Andreas; there would be no reason to. As the investigation proceeds, however, the clues begin to add up in chilling fashion, raising the small hairs on the arms of Inspector Sejer and his colleague, Jacob Skarre. There are overtones of Stephen King's Misery in When the Devil Holds the Candle, and perhaps a bit of John Fowles' The Collector; that said, it is an impossible book to put down, a psychological thriller that will haunt you long after the final page has been turned.