11 April 2012

Review: THE CALLER, Karin Fossum

  • first published 2009
  • English translation from Norwegian by K.E. Semmel 2011
  • published in English by Harvill Secker, London
  • ISBN 978-1-846-55393-6
  • 296 pages
  • Source: my local library
  • #8 in the Inspector Sejer series
Synopsis (Amazon)

One mild summer evening Lily and her husband are enjoying a meal while their baby daughter sleeps peacefully in her pram beneath a maple tree. But when Lily steps outside she is paralysed with terror. The child is bathed in blood.

Inspector Sejer is called to the hospital to meet the family. Mercifully the baby is unharmed, but her parents are deeply shaken. Sejer spends the evening trying to comprehend why anyone would carry out such a sinister prank.

Then, just before midnight, somebody rings his doorbell. The corridor is empty, but the caller has left a small grey envelope on the mat. From his living room window, the inspector watches a figure slip across the car park and disappear into the darkness. Inside the envelope Sejer finds a postcard bearing a short message. Hell begins now.

My take

When you think about it, the main plot line of THE CALLER is simple enough. Someone is playing pranks. The list of pranks that begins with the baby covered in blood grows: a death notice in the paper for someone who is not dead, a prize sheep painted with orange paint, a funeral home requested to collect the body of a seriously ill man who has not yet died, tyres slashed. In themselves the pranks are not life threatening but they are malicious.

The reader learns early on the identity of the person playing the pranks, and I think there is the possibility that at least one other person in the community knows who the "prankster" is. But the pranks are vicious acts, perpetrated by an adolescent in whom real anger boils as the result of a life time of neglect. And despite the fact that he is in his late teens he is incapable of seeing beyond the immediate consequences of his pranks. He can't see the sense of security that his pranks have removed from his victims, and he can't forecast their long term consequences. And then two of the pranks have serious consequences. Someone dies.

This is #8 in Fossum's Inspector Sejer series and a mark of her popularity with English speaking readers that there has been such a small time lapse since the original publication in Norwegian. If you've not read any of the series before, then you could start with this one. It will send you looking for the others. It presents Inspector Konrad Sejer in a kindly light: ageing, a little worried by health issues, and with great empathy for the victims of these crimes. But he even feels drawn to the prankster himself. He and his team look for the thread that binds the pranks together: how does the prankster select his victims?

There's an ambiguity to the ending which seems characteristic of Fossum stories. If what the prankster says is true, there is one prank that was not his doing. And what was Else Meiner doing at the Sparbo Dam?

An excellent read. My rating: 5.0

Other reviews for you to read

Inspector Konrad Sejer, Norway (courtesy Euro Crime) - the first date is the year of publication in English, the number at the end is the series order.
• In the Darkness20121
• Don't Look Back (Se deg ikke tilbake!, 1996)20022
He Who Fears the Wolf (Den som frykter ulven, 1997)20033
When the Devil Holds the Candle (Djevelen holder lyset , 1998)20044
Calling Out for You! (apa The Indian Bride) (Elskede Poona, 2000)20055
Black Seconds (Svarte sekunder, 2002)20076
The Water's Edge20098
Bad Intentions20109
The Caller201110

Other Karin Fossum reviews on MiP
(also contains mini reviews of
BROKEN (a stand-alone)


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - I'm so glad you liked this one as much as you did. Isn't it great? I'm glad you touched on the whole issue of ambiguity because I think Fossum does that very well. There's just enough of it and done with just the right touch I think.

Dorte H said...

Another Fossum to look forward to :)
It sounds as if she is in great shape so I must remember to look for it in the library.

Sharon Little said...

I've read all of her books ,I especially liked The Indian Bride,found it sad,true 7 powerful in a quiet way.

J.L. Campbell said...

Sounds like an intriguing, if disturbing read. The protag would have to be someone seriously disturbed, as you've pointed out.


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