Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Indian Bride

The way that the best authors of series detective fiction can build such completely fleshed out characters over the course of their books is often the main attraction to readers. After a book or two, readers feel as if they know the recurring characters well enough to understand and predict their motivations, personalities, likes and dislikes, and the way that they all relate to each other. Finishing the latest book in the series means looking forward to the next one. That’s why it’s seldom wise for someone to begin a detective series with its most recent entry.

But that’s not a problem for readers of Karin Fossum’s The Indian Bride, the fourth book in her Inspector Sejer series, because it functions well as a standalone novel with an intriguing story to tell. Fossum, who lives and works in Norway, is the author of several novels and numerous short stories but it is the translation of her Sejer series into English that is most likely to earn a name for her in this country.

Gunder Jomann, a farm implements salesman in an insulated community of just over 2,000 people, has always seemed a little slow to the people who know him. But his patience and determination have allowed him to carve out a nice life for himself in Elvestad where he lives near his married sister, the only family that he still has. At age 51, he feels that there is really only one thing missing in his life now, a wife, and he realizes that he will have to look outside Elvestad if he is ever to find one. Having become fascinated by the picture of a beautiful Indian woman in a book that his sister gave him, Gunder decides that India is the place for him to find a wife. And against all odds, he succeeds in doing exactly that.

Just as Gunder is leaving for the ninety-minute drive to the airport to pick up his new bride who has been left behind in India to prepare for her new life with him, he receives a phone call from the local hospital saying that his sister, never known for her driving skills, has been involved in a collision and is in a coma. He makes the fateful decision to go to his sister and to send a taxi to the airport to bring his wife to him rather than greeting her himself. As a result, he is never to see her again.

When Poona Bai’s badly battered body is discovered the next day in a grassy meadow on the outskirts of Elvestad, Inspector Konrad Sejer and his assistant, Jacob Skarre, are called in to head the investigation into the brutal murder. The sheer brutality of the crime and the condition of the body make Sejer determined to bring the killer to justice but he soon realizes that the citizens of Elvestad live in a community in which it is simply not acceptable to help outsiders cause problems for any of its people. Sejer finds that even a murder investigation in Elvestad is going to be frustrated by the reluctance of its residents to tell what they know or suspect.

The Indian Bride offers both a fascinating mystery and a look at what life might be like in a small Norwegian village where everyone knows everyone else. Its rather unusual ending is not what most readers will expect, and I suspect that it will disappoint as many readers as it pleases, but Karin Fossum has created a new fan who now plans to read the first three books in the Sejer series and will look forward to the fifth one.

Rated at: 4.0

5 comments:

  1. I'm seriously getting overwhelmed with books that I want to read! Thanks for adding to my torment, Sam. I'm going to look into the first one of this series. :)

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  2. I think you'll like her writing, Joy, but don't be afraid to read this one first. I've got her first three on hold at my library right now and two of them are already on the way. I'm looking forward to them.

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  3. This sounds really fascinating. Thanks for mentioning it!

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  4. It's a good book, Heather, and I picked up the first three books in the series this morning. I started the first one but don't know when I'll actually get to them all. She's impressive.

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