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Monday, August 13, 2012

The Caller


Scandinavian-authored crime fiction has taken the world by storm and, like many readers, I have read numerous crime fiction novels from that part of the world in the last two years.  Of the several authors whose work I have sampled, Karin Fossum has emerged as my favorite – and her latest, The Caller, reminds me why that is so.

Some of Fossum’s colleagues use such spectacular crimes and criminals in their books that they are, in the end, completely unbelievable because it is difficult to take some of their super-villains very seriously for an entire novel. Fossum’s books, on the other hand, have realistic settings that focus on the types of situation one is more likely to encounter in the real world – painting a truer picture of contemporary Norwegian life, in the process. Because her characters, both the bad guys and their victims, are believable and understandable, Fossum’s novels have a more ominous feel about them than the more incredible ones.  And it does not hurt one little bit that her wonderful Inspector Sejer is at the heart of every story.

This time around, someone seems to be playing games with people’s minds in a series of vicious pranks that are leaving deep emotional scars on the chosen targets.  It starts one summer day when a young mother goes outside to retrieve her napping baby and finds the child covered in blood.  Thankfully, when Inspector Sejer arrives at the hospital, he learns that the baby is not covered in its own blood.  The harm, however, has been done, and the repercussions of the emotional trauma suffered by the baby’s parents soon threaten their very marriage.  When Sejer receives a hand-delivered card promising that “hell begins now,” he understands just how important it is for him to stop the heartless prankster.

Karin Fossum
Fossum reveals the person behind all this criminal mischief early on in The Caller and, from that point onward, she uses alternating chapters to get inside the heads of the perpetrator and his victims.  Eventually, the truly destructive impact of the “pranks” mounts up and the person behind them starts to be blamed for every odd little thing that happens in the area - whether or not he is actually responsible.  When one of these odd events turns deadly, things begin to fall apart all around him.

The Caller is not a book about a horribly violent crime.  It is more a psychological crime thriller reminding me of the work of Ruth Rendell, especially when Rendell writes under her Barbara Vine pseudonym.   The bad things that happen are, in a way, accidents resulting from carelessness on the part of a young man who does not bother to think about the consequences of his decisions.  He is clever - but na├»ve about the ways of the world – and his victims pay a much steeper price than he ever imagined for them.

Fans of Karin Fossum will be pleased to hear that many (I agree with the assessment) consider this to be the author’s best work since The Indian Bride - and that one is a masterpiece of its type. 

(Review Copy provided by Publisher) 

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