Don’t Look Back by Karin Fossum #bookreview #Norway

Barry Forshaw rates Norway’s Karin Fossum highly as a writer and this is the starting point for me picking up this book.  Don’t Look Back is a police procedural set in small town Norway.  First a young child named Ragnhild goes missing then young woman, Annie Holland, is found dead under strange circumstances at a local beauty spot and it is the task of Inspector Konrad Sejer to discover what has happened and consequently find Annie’s murderer.

Sejer, an older detective, with his younger assistant Jacob Skarre set about learning more about the victim, the local community and the relationships within it.  There are quite a few people who raise suspicion including a local man with Down’s Syndrome, something I haven’t come across in a crime novel before. The characters are very real and many have secrets or are victims of misfortune.  It is these back stories which bring substance to the book and which in the end lead Sejer to the killer.  By the end of the novel I had a very rounded, full picture of Annie Holland which I thought was brilliant as she had spent the whole novel as the murder victim.  Fossum really brought Annie to life for me.

Don’t Look Back is part of a series of book featuring Inspector Sejer*.  I did not feel I got to know the Inspector too well in this book, just enough.  ‘Just enough’ seems to feature in Fossum’s style in general.  There are no wasted words. The translation was good with the occasional sentence sounding a little angular which caused me to re-read in case I had missed something.  I never had. Some conversations are just abrupt like that.  The pace of the novel is also just enough. It is not fast paced, it takes its time but is not too slow.   Don’t Look Back is a  novel driven by character, psychology.  It is a quiet book with a startlingly realistic crime that takes place in an ordinary town amongst ordinary folk which makes it quite a powerful read if you stop and think about it.

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*Sejer loves the company of his giant dog Kollberg, a Leonberger.

They went to Sejer’s apartment to collect Kollberg, and let him stretch out on the back seat of the car. The dog is alone too much, Sejer thought, tossing him an extra piece of dried fish. That must be why he is so impossible.

” Do you think he smells bad?”

Skarre nodded. You should give him a Fisherman’s Friend lozenge.”

Kollberg is possibly named after the character Lennart Kollberg in the Martin Beck novels by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. Does anyone have confirmation of this?

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4 comments

  1. I thought exactly the same thing about this book: a quiet read, but very realistic. And that does, indeed, give it power. I actually think that about most of Fossum’s Sejer series.

    1. Any others of hers you’d recommend Margot?

      1. There are several, actually. Calling Out For You (AKA The Indian Bride is, I think, especially good. I also liked He Who Fears the Wolf very much, too. The others are also good, though. I don’t think you’d regret reading any of them.

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