He Who Fears the Wolf, Karin Fossum
Translator: Felicity David
Series: Konrad Sejer, 3
People say that when Errki Johrma is around bad things tend to happen. He’s like a bad omen. No one wants to be around him and people keep their distance. Twenty-six year old Errki was involuntarily committed to an asylum. When the story opens, he escapes out of the asylum through a window and disappears into the nearby woods. Soon after, a local woman, in her 70′s is found dead on the footsteps of her house. She was brutally murdered. A kid with his bow & arrow runs and tells the sheriff that he saw Errki in the woods of the dead woman’s house. Inspector Konrad Sejer gets called in to investigate.
Meanwhile the story takes a surprising turn when Sejer is walking to work one morning and senses trouble before it starts. A bank is robbed and the robber takes off with the money and takes a hostage. Konrad suspects the hostage to be a woman working in cahoots with the suspect. The local sheriff tells Konrad that the robber will be in for a rude awakening when he learns who he has with him. I guess you can say that the suspense part of the story is what will happen with the two unlikeliest pair– a murder suspect and a bank robber– trying to stay one step ahead of the law.
HE WHO FEARS THE WOLF is part police procedural and part psychological suspense. I’ve read THE INDIAN BRIDE and THE CALLER and while both books are decent, solid reads, Karin Fossum has yet to have a “break-out” book. This book has one of the most memorable openings. We are inside the head of a mentally ill patient seeing all of these visually disturbing images. The author added this element to the story very effectively.
There are certain trends or patterns to Karin Fossum’s books. She tends to write about people who don’t fit within “normal” society. Whatever that is. She also has a tendency of humanizing her characters even the bad guys that despite their actions she can elicit sympathy from you. Especially in this book as she explains the motives behind the antagonist actions. While their crimes are reprehensible, the author likes to explore their trajectory. I guess you can say that she has compassion for her all of her characters. Everybody has a story and not everybody is 100% evil.
Karin Fossum always likes to set her stories in remote areas or small towns. Contrasting the quiet moments that are forever shattered by a crime. The crimes in these settings tend to affect the entire community, too. You also get to know the people in these communities and their reactions to these crimes are predictable and sometimes surprising. The victims are put under the microscope as well as they try to restore order to their lives.
Her main character, Inspector Konrad Sejer, is described as a tall man with hair graying at the temples. He is said to be old-fashioned and quite reserved. He’s also a deep thinker. He believes that every investigation has a psychological part or should have one. Sejer has his own angst to contend with. He’s a widower still missing his wife. The only company he has these days is that of his faithful dog, Kollberg. He finds himself attracted to a psychiatrist, the only one who believes that Errki could be innocent of the crimes people suspect he may have committed. I enjoyed their scenes together in this book.
Karin Fossum writes atypical mystery novels. She won’t be to everybody’s taste. Her novels contain complex social issues with no easy answers. In this book, the focus is on a mentally ill patient who many assume is guilty of a violent crime when that might not be the case.Thank goodness Inspector Sejer knows better than to jump to conclusions. Overall, HE WHO FEARS THE WOLF as translated by Felicity David, is a well written novel. I haven’t mentioned all the plot points as there are some twists to the story. The pacing is a bit brisker in this novel when compared to the others and the storyline was interesting. My grade, B. Source: I bought this book
Karin Fossum like many other foreign writers has had the pleasure of having her books translated out of order. This book is the third in the series and was written in 1997 and the first English publication was in 2003. The first book in the series, INTO THE DARKNESS, was just released in July 2012. US pub date is unknown at the time of this writing.
Notable reviews elsewhere: Euro Crime (Karen Meek)
PERSONAL NOTE: My blogging will remain inconsistent as there are real life obligations I must satisfy at the moment.