Tangled Web UK Review January 2003
File Updated: 05/03/03

Buy at Amazon Price Don't Look Back by Karin Fossum
pbk out October 02 (Harvill) at £9.99

Is Norwegian the new Swedish? It could be if this, the precursor to one or two Norwegian titles that will be published in the UK over the next few months, is anything to go by.
But don’t expect fireworks. This is a quietly observant, psychologically acute novel set in an isolated, fjordside Norwegian community. It is based, in fact, on the village where Fossum herself lives, and one of five such communities that fall within the jurisdiction of her protagonist, Inspector Konrad Sejer.
A small girl is reported missing; Sejer investigates. But the girl, in the company of Raymond, a local lad suffering from Down’s Syndrome, quickly turns up – only to report that the body of another (older) girl lies foetally at the water’s edge of a small lake some distance above the village. The dead girl is Annie Holland,an outgoing teenager whose behaviour had become more troubled in recent months. Is this change a result of normal adolescent problems or does the reason lie in more external forces?
Sejer, in his fifth appearance (though the first to appear in the UK) investigates with intelligence and delicacy. Note his deft handling of the hysterical mother in the opening pages. Sejer’s team establish some possible suspects from within the local community; for example Raymond, the football coach with a rape conviction ( Annie was once an enthusiastic goal-keeper) and Annie’s boyfriend Halvor. Sejer himself sets out on a series of revealing interviews, beautifully realised and observed, with both these suspects and Annie’s family itself, continually probing for any hint of dysfunction that might hold the key to the mystery.
Herein lies the real strengh of the book. All of these characters are explored in unusual depth, sometimes in circumstances outside the strict confines of the story, giving them real humanity, and forcing us to re-evaluate our prejudices. Fossum is excellent too on social dynamics: a village under unprecedented stress, families struggling to come to terms with loss.
This is an absorbing mystery, suspense nicely sustained, sometimes philosophical in tone, and with a strangely disquieting ending. Well worth your time.


( Bob Cornwell )

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