Norway’s Inspector Konrad Sejer is less an agent or character than a brooding presence in this slim, penetrating tale of a falling-out among conspirators.
Jon Moreno’s childhood friends have signed him out of the Ladegården Psychiatric Hospital for only a weekend, but he doesn’t survive even their first night. Instead he falls out of their boat and into the lake called Dead Water. Philip Reilly, the big porter at Central Hospital, wants first to dive in after him and then, once all hope is gone, to call the police. But Axel Frimann, the advertising executive who’s always been the leader of the trio, easily talks him out of both ideas and into lying to Sejer and his sergeant, Jacob Skarre, when they do show up, exactly as if they’d committed some sort of crime. The investigation that follows is understated but pointed, especially after the diary Jon left behind makes it clear that he was indeed involved in something that had left him shattered and wracked by guilt. And the discovery of the swollen body of Kim Van Chau, found in Glitter Lake nine months after he disappeared from a party at which all three friends were present, provides an obvious foundation for those feelings. But what exactly caused Kim’s death, and what can Sejer do about it?
Sejer’s questioning, the diary, an accident at Jon’s funeral, a kitten Reilly rescues from the woods—they all pave the way for a climax with strong echoes of Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale.