Monday, April 04, 2011

Bad Intentions

Bad Intentions is the seventh crime novel in Karin Fossum’s Inspector Sejer series.  I cannot claim to have read all seven of the novels, but the three I have read so far certainly encourage me to seek out the rest of the series.  The books, all of which are set in Norway, are psychological crime novels in which character development and motivation are every bit as important as plot and action.  Those enjoying this type of crime fiction will do well to seek out the work of Karin Fossum.

Alex, Reilly and Jon have been a trio since they were youngsters.  Now that they are young men, Jon is so troubled that he has been confined to a mental health facility for treatment.  Alex and Reilly, hoping to ease their friend’s mind, get permission to bring him with them for a weekend’s outing on remote Dead Water Lake.  When tragedy strikes in the middle of the night, and one of the boys drowns in the lake, the other two wait until morning to report the accident. 

Inspector Sejer, filtering the story about their friend’s supposed suicide through his years of experience, senses that something is wrong.  Things do not quite add up, but there is little he can do to disprove what Alex and Reilly insist happened that night – until the body of another teen associated with Alex, Reilly and Jon floats to the surface.

As Sejer and his assistant, Jacob Skarre, begin to tighten the screws on Alex and Reilly, their best hope is that one of the two will crack long enough to reveal what really happened to the two dead men.  Meanwhile, Fossum carries the reader deep into the minds of several secondary characters that have an interest in the outcome of Sejer’s investigation.

The mothers of the two victims form an unlikely friendship, based at first on nothing but their shared mourning, that surprises both of them with its intensity.  The women see their sons as innocent victims of a world gone mad – but only one of them is right about the innocent part.  Both of them, however, are determined to learn the truth about their sons’ last hours.

Karin Fossum
At the heart of the story is the relationship of Alex and Reilly, a relationship poisoned forever by the loss of Jon.  Alex has always called the shots with Reilly and Jon, and he will tolerate no resistance from Reilly now, just when the wrong move can send both of them to prison for the rest of their lives.  What really happened on the most important two nights in the lives of four young men is slowly revealed as Fossum allows Alex and Reilly to reveal themselves layer by layer. 

Karin Fossum writes rather sparingly (the book is less than 200 pages in length) but she creates such memorable characters, on both sides of the crime equation, that her novels remain with the reader long after the last page is turned.

Rated at: 4.0

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)


  1. Thanks for the review. We seem to get so few stories from Scandinavia - I'll look out for this.

  2. Cozy, I've really enjoyed the trend in this country of publishing more and more crime fiction from those countries and Iceland. It's a great way to learn more about what life there is really like...far off the beaten tourist paths.