Fossum, Karin - 'The Caller' (translated by K E Semmel)
THE CALLER is the tenth in the Inspector Sejer series and is a bit of a throwback in subject matter to her earlier books in the series and is much longer than the previous one, BAD INTENTIONS.
The first in a series of what are later called "pranks" occurs to happy family Lily and Karsten and their baby daughter Margrete. Margrete is sleeping in a pram in the back garden but when the parents go out to her she is covered in blood. Horrified they rush her to the hospital where she is found to be perfectly fine. The police are called in and so enter Konrad Sejer and his sidekick Jacob Skarre. Later that day Sejer receives a postcard under his door stating that "hell begins now".
The reader is swiftly made aware of who is behind this incident and the story is told from his point of view, as well as the families he terrorises and of course Sejer and Skarre. The incidents range from silly to serious, at face value, but the impact on the families is far-ranging from illness, to family breakups and death.
Like the aftermath of a car-crash at the side of the road you cannot tear yourself away to see how it's all going to end. The culprit is a clever but young individual who has been neglected and who could and should have gone a different path and indeed does show kindness to some, but nonetheless is determined to make his mark in a notorious way.
There's no getting away from it, THE CALLER is a cold book, there's not much hope in it. It's cleverly plotted and has one of those endings which are a bit of a Fossum trademark ie of an unfinished and ambiguous nature. As the focus is on the perpetrator and victims you never get to find out how much investigation is going on in the background. The police know early on that a moped is involved and are they trawling the DMV (equivalent) records to get a list of suspects? Personally I find the lack of actual detecting a bit frustrating but I appreciate that that is not the raison d'etre of these books.
That said, Sejer and Skarre do appear a little more than of late; we even get inside Skarre's flat and Sejer's grandson plays an small but important role with something he points out to Sejer. Sejer is ageing and possibly unwell. Will we discover what, if anything, is wrong with him? Will Skarre, attractive and friendly and now in his late 30s ever settle down? These sort of questions are probably not likely to be answered by Fossum but you never know. Roll on the next book to find out.
Karen Meek, England