Friday, September 03, 2010


Three young men, Jon Moreno, Philip Reilly and Axel Frimann are staying in a a small log cabin near Dead Water Lake.
They take a boat out into the middle of the lake and Jon, who cannot swim, slips over the side into the water. Axel and Reilly make no attempt to rescue him, and don't call for help until the next morning, when they invent the story that he went out on his own, and apparently committed suicide.
Although Jon was a patient at Ladegarden Psychiatric Hospital, suffering from depression, detectives Konrad Sejer and Jacob Skaare are not convinced that he committed suicide, because of certain inconsistencies in the evidence. Then they discover that these three young men are mentioned in earlier records concerning an event the previous winter..........

Karin Fossum's Bad Intentions, translated by Charlotte Barslund, is a short book less than two hundred pages, but it proves that you don't have to write a six hundred page blockbuster to leave the reader satisfied.
Her detectives, Sejer and Skaare, play a comparatively small part in this superb book which becomes a psychological study of two contrasting friends.
Axel, is a smooth operator working in advertising, who drives a Mercedes, the sort of man women usually smile at when he talks to them.
Reilly is a disheveled, socially inept, drug addicted incompetent hospital porter, who once wheeled a 90 year old woman into the maternity ward. Why did the shy thoughtful Jon remain friends with this mismatched twosome?
Karin Fossum introduces some interesting cameo characters in Hanna Wigert Jon's psychiatrist, Molly his girl friend at Laderdegaden, and Ingerid his mother. All these women get to see through the controlling Axel to the real person beneath the veneer of charm.

The book talks about loneliness, conscience, control and the fragility of the human mind when faced with trauma; as well as the special resilience that can be found in some people after great personal loss. Bad Intentions also discusses Norway's immigrant communities and racism, and even finds space for a little gentle humour in what is essentially a rather bleak book.

'You want me to believe it tastes better than any other pork?'
'Of course. A free pig is a happy pig, and a happy pig is a tasty pig.'
'Now I get it ,' Reilly said. 'A happy pig is a more expensive pig. And we can't tell the difference anyway.'

This is another brilliant book by one of Norway's and Europe's top crime writers.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman - Thanks so much for this review. I don't normally enjoy really downbeat crime fiction. Still, yours and Maxine's reviews have convinced me that this one is worth reading...

5:35 AM  
Blogger Dorte H said...

Oh, this one was great! I do miss the earlier books a bit, though, because we learned more about Sejer then.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Martin Edwards said...

I'd like to read this one!

3:29 PM  
Blogger Maxine Clarke said...

As usual with Fossum I did enjoy this book but at the same time I was a bit unsatisfied by it. Too slight, or perhaps slightly too fable-like/predicatble? Not sure. Also, Sejer has a relationship with a psychiatrist in a previous novel, doesn't he? We didn't hear what happened there, but perhaps this is because the books haven't been translated in order so some of the earlier titles are yet to appear in English.
To sum up, she is such a talented author but I think she can do better than this - although the book is very readable and interesting, I think it could have been more so.

3:10 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Maxine I read this after the Baraldi so I was bound to rate it very highly!
I enjoyed it more because of the just resolution, which rarely happens in real life. The Axel Frimann's of this world usually go on to greater success.

3:37 AM  
Anonymous Tim said...

I'm in the middle of reading it just now. I know it sounds "slight" but there's a lot going on, plenty to think about.

7:31 AM  
Anonymous Tim said...

As Maxine alluded to, Sejer has a similar meeting with a psychologist in "He Who Feas The Wolf". As that was five books ago, I guess nothing came of the realtionship ... poor Sejer.

Have you noticed other motifs cropping up again in Karin Fossum's work? There's the image of a yellow child's bike in "Don't Look Back" and "Black Seconds".

2:16 AM  
Anonymous josefina l-r said...

el ojo de eva y una mujer en tu camino son los dos libros que he leido de karin y los he disfrutado a tope, y que conste que soy lectora habitual de novela negra, pero estos son diferentes, describe los pensamientos y sentimientos de tal manera que llegan al lector que los vive como propios

10:14 AM  

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