One mild summer evening Lily and her husband are enjoying a meal while their baby daughter sleeps peacefully in her pram beneath a maple tree. But when Lily steps outside she is paralysed with terror. The child is bathed in blood.
Inspector Sejer is called to the hospital to meet the family. Mercifully the baby is unharmed, but her parents are deeply shaken. Sejer spends the evening trying to comprehend why anyone would carry out such a sinister prank.
One of the most exciting things about a new book from Karin Fossum is exactly where she's going to take the reader this time. The scenarios, the crimes, the individuals that Fossum incorporates in her books are always very thought provoking, and THE CALLER was certainly no different.
From the moment that a young child is found in her pram, in the backyard of her parent's home, bathed in blood; through the mysterious delivery of a message to Inspector Sejer's door; into the story of Johnny and his drunken, irresponsible mother and the touching relationship he has with his grandfather; there's something very very different going on in this book. THE CALLER is very much about consequences. The acts of one irresponsible, foolish prankster who continues to cause havoc with practical jokes that annoy, frighten and discomfort. Even though the nature of the crime being committed as part of these jokes is sometimes obvious, sometimes a little obscure, Inspector Sejer does his best to find the perpetrator as the level of concern grows. The problem is that the perpetrator is clever, and very cool and collected, and you just know the outcomes are going to get worse.
THE CALLER takes the reader into the world of both victims and perpetrators - an unusual position in crime fiction where the victim is frequently necessarily silent. Whilst this provides a different perspective it is, as usual, Fossum's way of lighting the dark recesses of human behaviour that stand out in this book. Although there's nothing judgemental about the way that she does this - as in other books, it's a matter of the author drawing the picture, explaining the acts and describing the consequences, leaving the question of guilt or innocence, inexcusable acts and mitigating circumstances open to the reader to consider.
All of this is delivered in a simple, lyrical, extremely readable manner. THE CALLER is really another excellent entry in the ongoing series based around Inspector Sejer. The books, however, could easily be read as standalones or out of series order if needs must. But reading them all is no trial whatsoever.
BAD INTENTIONS - Karin Fossum
Early one September three friends spend the weekend at a remote cabin by Dead Water Lake. With only a pale moon to light their way, they row across the water in the middle of the night. But only two of them return, and they make a pact not to call for help until the following morning.
Karin Fossum is an author who uses observation acutely, whilst being more than willing to play with both expectations and the outer reaches of readers' comfort zones. Each of her books uses a different type of scenario to explore human behaviour and quirks. In BAD INTENTIONS she is looking at the nature of manipulation, conscience, and absolute and total egocentricity. She's also very very good at creepy - be it the characters or the setting, and in BAD INTENTIONS there's some of each.
BAD INTENTIONS is the ninth novel overall, seventh available in English, from Norwegian writer Fossum's series based around Inspector Konrad Sejer. These books are all psychological thrillers, within a police procedural setting. But really, the point of all of all of them is to look into a variety of different mindsets - that of the person committing the crime, and often also those observing or affected.
BAD INTENTIONS is about three men - Alex, Reilly and Jon. Friends from childhood, Jon suffers from anxiety attacks and has such severe psychological problems that he's been hospitalised. Alex and Reilly have taken him to their favourite place, a remote cabin in the forest beside a lake, as a treat - to try to cheer him up. Restless the 3 friends row out onto Dead Water Lake, where Jon panics and jumps into the water. One friend wants to save him, the other stops him. A shared story is concocted, suicide is blamed, and they wait until the following morning before calling the police. Konrad Sejer is assigned the case and he and his team quickly start to see inconsistencies, not only in the stories that the boys are telling, but also in Jon himself. Suicide seems so unlikely for someone improving, developing relationships, sorting his life out.
This is a very clever plot that effortlessly demonstrates the snowballing affect of attempted cover ups. In this case, the cover-up of Jon's death is just yet another link in a chain of lies and bad choices (intentions if you like) that goes way back. But as with any of Fossum's books - it's not just about the cover-up, BAD INTENTIONS is also about friendship, damaged people and breathtaking ruthlessness.
Best of all, BAD INTENTIONS is extremely believable. Okay so that's probably not a "best" thing, but this book describes events that are totally feasible - there isn't a single moment's reading where you are left thinking "no, surely not". Cleverly written, insightful and informative, this is a book that is suspenseful and entertaining whilst also being extremely thought-provoking. Exactly what you'd expect from this fantastic series.