He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum

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He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The second book in the Inspector Konrad Sejer series is a well-written psychological thriller with good pace and excellent characterisation. It's recommended by Bookbag.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: July 2004
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 0099455226

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A young boy by the name of Kannick dashed into the police station to report that he'd discovered the body of a woman who'd been brutally killed. He also reported that he'd seen someone else in the woods nearby and that it looked like Errki, who'd just escaped from a mental hospital. As if this wasn't enough for Inspector Konrad Sejer to cope with, the local Bank is robbed the following morning and a hostage is taken by the gunman. Sejer was almost a witness to the robbery, having left the Bank just seconds before it happened.

This is a story about relationships. The one that dominates the book is Errki and the bank robber. Morgan begins by being in charge - abducting Errki at gunpoint - but as his plans unravel he begins to rely on Errki. Errki, in turn, starts to talk to Morgan in a way that he's never done before. For more than a decade he's been receiving therapy and treatment but has never told anyone other than the unlikely Morgan about the voices he hears, about The Coat and Nestor. From being the sort of person you're likely to cross the road to avoid, Errki becomes a compelling character and I found myself warming to him. It's a sympathetic and knowledgeable portrayal of mental illness and the problems it brings.

The relationship between Kannick, Errki and Morgan is enlightening too. Kannick lives in a home for boys with behavioural problems, so the three have much in common, with much of their lives spent in one institution or another. What emerges is not the problems they have, but their strengths and skills, along with a feeling of how different it all might have been but for the chance of fate. There's a black humour too in just how conniving and manipulative they all can be.

In the first book in the series - Don't Look Back - the personality of Inspector Konrad Sejer barely intruded. Whilst it doesn't dominate He Who Fears the Wolf he isn't quite as two-dimensional. He's been a widower for more than a decade but now finds himself drawn, rather against his will, to Errki's psychiatrist. The relationship between Sejer and his assistant, Jacob Skarre, becomes more natural, too, with a hint of a personal connection rather than just colleagues working together.

It's a clever plot. It might sound rather boring - a set of people you'd normally regard as losers - but it's remarkably well paced. At no point did I lose interest and I'll confess that I didn't see the twist at the end coming at all, but all the clues were there. The first Inspector Sejer novel was purely police procedural, but this would be better described as a psychological thriller with a fine dramatic balance. At times the suspense was almost tangible.

The real star of this book is the writing. Karin Fossum's style always puts me in mind of Ruth Rendell, with its simple sentence construction and pure elegance of writing. Karin Fossum began her writing career as a poet and as I read her I'm left with the feeling that the book has been crafted rather than merely written. Felicity David's excellent translation helps, but it would have meant little had the basic text not been of such quality.

I came to Karin Fossum via the Kurt Wallander novels of Henning Mankell ( The Fifth Woman,Faceless Killers and The Dogs of Riga and if you like this type of book they're certainly worth exploring.

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Buy He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum at Amazon.com.

Karin Fossum's Inspector Sejer novels in chronological order


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