Thursday, April 22, 2010


Kristine and Reinhardt Ris are walking through the woods when a man walks quickly past them averting his eyes, and failing to return Kristine's broad smile. The man drives off in a white car and when they continue their walk they find the body of a young boy naked from the waist down.
The couple have different reactions to the discovery Reinhardt takes photos of the body, and is intensely interested in the case, while Kristine is shocked at the crime and also at her husband and his behavior.

'My guess is he has a false leg,' Reinhardt said. "If he ends up in court, we'll probably have to give evidence.'
Kjell shook his head in disbelief. 'Well, that's what you'll be hoping for,I know you. For Christ's sake, Reinhardt, all you did was see a man in the forest. Get over yourself.'

Konrad Sejer and Jakob Skarre begin a systematic investigation and find that a man in a white car has been regularly driving near Solberg School, which the young victim Jonas August attended.
Kristine begins to realise how bleak her life and marriage to Reinhardt has become, and then with the once peaceful community still in shock Edwin Asalid, a grossly obese child aged ten, goes missing.

I had not read Karin Fossum for some time and had forgotten just how good a crime novelist she was. In this case she was assisted by a smooth translation from Charlotte Barslund so that without the setting the reader might think they were reading a Ruth Rendell psychological mystery.
The detectives, Sejer and Skarre, almost fade into the background as Karin Fossum takes us on a journey into the lives of Kristine, of the damaged perpetrator, of Elfrid Lowe, the mother of Jonas, and of Tulla Asalid, mother of the obese missing child Edwin. Their world will never be the same again.
This crime will change lives and futures in so many ways as suspicion falls on local lonely men and a caring gay schoolteacher. Sejer and Skarre discuss difficult subjects in the mature intelligent balanced fashion as one would expect from policemen in a liberal Scandinavian country.
This is a story not only about paedophilia but also about more subtle forms of abuse, and the vulnerability of women in our modern societies.

Karin Fossum has a great skill in that she makes the reader feel sympathy for her characters, both the good and the bad. Her word portraits leave an indelible image in the brain and she writes movingly about the complexities in human relationships.
The Water's Edge was certainly on a higher intelligence level than a lot of crime fiction, and when I have time I will go back and read the Fossums I have missed.

'All I am saying is that it's frighteningly complex,' Skarre said. 'What is force? Is it force to use deceit? Is it morally reprehensible to entice anyone into bed? Should we even be seducing one another at all? It's not easy being a man and getting to grips with all these rules.'
Sejer looked at Skarre across the table. 'I have no wish at all to discuss my private life,'he said,' but following rules has never been a problem for me.'


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman - Thanks for this review. I have to say, one thing I like in crime fiction is when the author has enough respect for the reader to write on a reasonably high intelligence level. Not that there's no place for simple escapist fun in the genre, but it's also nice when there's intellectual "food to chew on."

7:18 AM  
Blogger Maxine Clarke said...

Very telling observations, Norman, thank you. I would not characterise my review as "polished" - but does that mean you see yourself as a rough diamond? ;-)

I do like Fossum despite the bleak nature of her books. In this one, the detectives seemed to be there more to represent a point of view than to be characters in a novel (we have found out much more about them, Sejer particularly but also Skarre) in previous novels). But as the author has said, she is not particularly interested in detective fiction!

1:10 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Margot and Maxine.
I am a very rough diamond at the moment with an untrimmed beard. I have just started The Snowman another example of superb Norwegian crime fiction and brilliant translation.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Kerrie said...

Norman - - I have an award for you here

3:19 AM  

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