by Karin Fossum
One of the welcome trends we’ve been seeing over the last few years is that American publishers (a few of them, anyway) are realizing that American readers may — just may — be interested in novels from other countries, written by foreign authors and offered to us translated into English. Oh, we’ve always had Simenon, of course, and years ago the marvelous Swedish husband and wife writing team, of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s series of mysteries about Martin Beck and his team of detectives at the Central Bureau of Investigation in Stockholm, but they’ve been exceptions at best (or, rather, the best of exceptions); and in the case of Sjöwall and Wahlöö, their books have been out of print for years. But little by little, the rest of the world is creeping onto library and bookstore shelves, particularly in the mystery sections, especially writers from Scandinavia. Henning Mankell is probably the first author who fits into this category that comes to mind, but there are many others to be enjoyed by the discerning reader who enjoys dark and moody psychological thrillers, as well as a general lack of sunshine and joy. One of my favorites is a Norwegian author named Karin Fossum. He Who Fears the Wolf (Harvest Books, 1006) is the second novel to be translated by Felicity David, following Don’t Look Back, which first introduced policeman Konrad Sejer. When an elderly woman is found murdered in her secluded house in the Norwegian countryside, the only suspect is a schizophrenic man who has escaped from the local asylum where he’s been incarcerated. And the only witness to the crime is a disturbed teenage boy, whose hobby is killing crows with his bow and arrow. As Sejer works his way through the meager clues that are available, his work is complicated by the attitudes of many of the inhabitants of the small town where the killing took place. Despite that, Sejer comes to believe that the perpetrator of another crime — this one a bank robbery and hostage taking — is also somehow involved in the murder. Fossum explores not only the psyches of these three wounded souls, but also delves into Sejer’s inner life, revealing a lonely, no-longer-young cop, who is still grieving over the death of his wife. And if you enjoy this as much as I did, don’t miss Fossum’s newest, The Water’s Edge.