Forgoing the historical excursions that tangled the first two cases of Trondheim’s Inspector Odd Singsaker (Dreamless, 2015, etc.), Brekke mingles the immediate past, present, and future to produce an even more tangled, but deeply rewarding, tale.
The story begins, sort of, with Singsaker standing in a burned-out room somewhere in the north of Norway, ordered at gunpoint to pick up a shotgun lying at his feet, next to a corpse. An investigation conducted by Internal Affairs Officer Kurt Melhus will focus not only on what happened next, but on why Singsaker, who’s on sick leave, ever got involved in the case. The short answer is that he’s been trying to find out what happened to his wife, American ex-cop Felicia Stone, a recovering alcoholic who ran off but has been trying to make her way back to her husband. Cutting freely backward and forward over a kaleidoscopic period of several crucial weeks, Brekke interleaves the stories of Felicia and Singsaker with those of dirty Narcotics cop Rolf Fagerhus, fatally indebted cocaine addict Knut Andersen Stang, and an enforcer for drug lord Geir Karlstad who calls himself Sving. Although each plot strand includes felonies aplenty, few readers will figure out the connections among them before the author sees fit to reveal them as the quintessence, the ethereal fifth element that supplements the four ancient elements of black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood.
The intricately linked plotlines will appeal to puzzle fans. But it’s Brekke’s prodigious powers of invention, his ability to keep coming up with unforgettable characters and indelible episodes, that lift this above his own earlier work and most of the heavy Nordic competition.