Monday, August 1, 2011

Book Review: Bad Intentions by Karin Fossum

If you got tired of the fast paced American thrillers and the British mysteries, of the noir novels of the European south and even of the Man himself, Stieg Larsson, and you seek something different as far as crime fiction is concerned, then you’d better take a look at the work of Karin Fossum. Her novels have been translated in 25 languages so far and according to the press in the English speaking world, she’s "The Norwegian queen of crime."
     I must say that Fossum writes unlike any other crime author I’ve read so far. The mystery in Bad Intentions doesn’t seem so important to her, she hardly pays any attention to it. And that’s exactly why she kind of points out straight from the start how things are going to end up. However, by the time that happens, she embarks on a journey into the souls of her characters and the dark that lies within them, and through the dialogues she tries to share with the reader some philosophies of life. And finally, she points out that any given fact, even a simple, though tragic accident can change somebody’s life for good and, if he’s weak enough, even shred it to pieces.
     It all begins when three friends travel to the Dead Water Lake for the weekend. One of them, Jon, is on leave from a psychiatric facility where he’s been treated for depression. As it looks, a few months back, something happened, which made him lose his will for life; but exactly what we’re not to discover really soon. We’ll find out however that the three of them share a terrible secret. And it’s exactly that secret that led Jon initially to depression and after that to suicide; because yes, Jon will die. He’ll fall from the boat they are riding into the deep waters of the lake and simply vanish, right in front of his friends’ eyes. One of them, Reilly, will want to try and save him, while the other, Axel, will stop him from doing so, because he’s sure that there’s nothing he can do about it; the waters are deep and dangerous and if he dives in he’ll end up drowning himself, he says. So, with no other option available, they return to their cabin, and try to make up the story that they will tell the cops the next day in the morning, when they’ll call them. Axel seems to be on top of the situation, while Reilly is at a loss. He’s so badly shaken that if he doesn’t pull himself together they’ll blow their cover. Things though will go fine after all, as when they meet the cops, inspector Konrad Sejer and his partner Jacob Skarre, they’ll manage to stick to their story. But even if they sound truthful, Sejer has doubts about their sincerity. Something smells fishy to him and he’s determined to find out what.
     As time goes by nothing changes for Axel, who’s confident as ever in everything he does, but the same thing cannot be said about Reilly, who seeks refuge in the words of the Koran, which he’s started studying at just about the same time as Jon’s life took the turn for the worse. He and Axel continue to meet very often and usually their discussions have to do with just one subject: the death of their friend. Every now and then though they talk about their respective philosophies of life and that’s exactly when their differences come to light. They both meditate deeply about life and they both like to shoot aphorisms to make a point. “Imagine if people always told the truth, it wouldn’t work. Society would fall apart”. “If freedom is a torment, then it’s not worth much”. “How quickly it can change, the life we think has been marked out for us”. “Every life is unique and so is every death”. “Better starve free than be a fat slave” (old proverb).
     The dialogues cover a quite big part of the book; dialogues between friends, between cops, between mothers. Every single one of them seems to carry his or her own ghost. Some of them know to cope with it and some don’t.
     In the end the solution to the riddle concerning Jon’s death, will be provided by life itself, by nature, as one more body will appear on the surface of a different lake, and then the cops will only have to put two and two together to set things straight.
     This is fine novel that can be easily read and enjoyed by every fan of fiction; crime or otherwise.
     It comes out in the USA next week

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