The murder of an Oslo foster home director points, inexplicably and disturbingly, to her latest charge.
Olav Håkonsen has always been different from other children—capable of elaborate courtesies, yet prone to uncontrollable rages. By the time he was 3, his mother, Birgitte, was already afraid of him, and his diagnosis years later with Minimal Brain Dysfunction would have come as something of a relief if it hadn’t prompted the social services authorities to take him away from her. When he joins the seven other children at the Spring Sunshine Foster Home, things instantly go wrong. Despite the best efforts of kindly caregiver Maren Kalsvik, he gets into a shouting match with a younger child, throws food across the room and hurls a string of obscenities at director Agnes Vestavik, who retaliates by keeping his loving, incapable mother from visiting him for a fortnight. The air is abruptly cleared by the discovery of Agnes’ body, stabbed to death, and the news that Olav vanished into the night. Chief Inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen, who catches the case, focuses on ostensibly more likely suspects, from assistant director Terje Welby, who’s been embezzling from the foster home’s funds, to Agnes’ unnamed lover, a used-car salesman who’s been forging checks he’s stolen from her checkbook. But a second violent death only muddies the waters further, and at any rate, none of the adults casts anything like the shadow of pitiable, monstrous Olav.
Not the finest hour for Hanne (Blind Goddess, 2012, etc.) and her detective team, who are equally upstaged by the unforgettable 12-year-old at the heart of the matter.