I Can See in the Dark by Karin Fossum

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I Can See in the Dark by Karin Fossum

Category: Thrillers
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: It's all in the complex and convincing lead character here, as the events of his confession don't amount to a full hill of beans – more like a small pile.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 256 Date: July 2014
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 9780099571834

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I can see in the dark. This admission, from the narrator as a young school child, is about the only thing he remembers of his youth. Or so he says at one point, only to contradict himself a couple of times, as he remembers something about his father, and about being bullied slightly over his looks while at school. Do we have an unreliable narrator on our hands? Well, he's unreliable in one aspect – he works in a care home for the elderly and infirm and spends his days ignoring their needs, switching or ditching their medicines, and picking on them while they are close to death. But death is also close to him – one day he sees a disaster pan out, which actually has links to the very small circle of people he knows, either from work, or from religiously observing them in the local park. But there is a lot more than just that – more deaths are in fact a lot closer to him, as this confession reveals…

This book wins or loses on several aspects, one of which is the narrator and principal character, Riktor. Even translated from the Norwegian it's a brilliant name – part Lector, part rigor mortis – part victor? No. But while he says he is too far aware of other people, and what they're thinking, and of how to play them, to be called autistic, he is definitely on some spectrum somewhere. He constantly whinges that he doesn't have a female companion, and never will do - he is wrong in the head in some regard, but we're only given his evidence as to how and why. This knife-edge tension – of just how rum he is – is much of how the whole book has been written – how the whole drama is conveyed – and adds to the enjoyment.

What takes away from that enjoyment in the end are the other aspects. Forget the fact Riktor is just creepy, therefore unlikeable – this book is short enough for me to not mind spending time in his narrative company. What did it for me in the end was that the book wanted to be a lot cleverer than it was, and principally relied on that. It ends up in a crime procedural, which while giving its dues is very alien to the British way of things – evidence given during the court summing-up, charges added mid-trial, etc – but which does not really work. It has to try and obfuscate as much as the complex character of Riktor, and it just doesn't. The trial gets in the way, when anything would get in the way, but when it's pulled back like any bog-standard curtain it needs to be showing something dazzling and startling, but it doesn't. It is there to hide a trick that doesn't exist, a twist that never comes, a cleverness that defeats the author.

I did want to enjoy this book a lot more than I ended up doing – if an author has a series like the ten that feature Inspector Sejer, and just two others, I will happily go to the stand-alones. But I can see why the reviews of this were on the whole showing regret and disappointment. It starts perfectly, and we're intimately with Riktor – all the while scorning, scoffing or hating. Fossum can clearly write a dark character – and a dark event from their perspective. But when it needs to pull the punches and turn into something bravura, it's not a 'teh-deh!' moment as such as a 'yes? and?'. For not having the real point that it relies on, this book is a failed introduction for me to an acclaimed author. It's one of the rare moments where chasing the unusual and going against the flow in an author's output has let me down. Riktor will stay with me, but his whole story will only be remembered as a disappointment.

I must still thank the publishers for my review copy.

The Murder of Harriet Krohn by Karin Fossum was this year's entrant to the Sejer series - albeit the seventh in real order - and again shows crime from the criminal's point of view. The season's must-read crime book remains The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker and Sam Taylor (translator).

Buy I Can See in the Dark by Karin Fossum at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I Can See in the Dark by Karin Fossum at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy I Can See in the Dark by Karin Fossum at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I Can See in the Dark by Karin Fossum at Amazon.com.


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