Inspector Sejer’s first case.
Egil Einarsson’s employment at a brewery and his drinking bouts with his buddies at the King’s Arms seem to have been the high points in a singularly uneventful life. When his thoroughly stabbed body washes up under the eyes of hardscrabble painter Eva Marie Magnus and her daughter Emma six months after he disappeared, Inspector Konrad Sejer can’t resist making a connection: Einarsson went out, ostensibly to show his Opel Manta to an interested buyer, only three days after the smothering of prostitute Maja Durban in her room, a stone’s throw from the King’s Arms. Since Maja was an old school friend of Eva’s, and the two, after not seeing each other for 25 years, had dinner together the night before Maja died, Sejer naturally assumes that Eva is the key to both cases—especially once he satisfies himself that after she found Einarsson’s body, Eva only faked a call to let the police know. But Eva’s not saying a thing; she’s not even admitting she didn’t place that phone call. Working as phlegmatically but effectively as ever, Sejer makes modest progress on the case. Halfway through the tale, however, Fossum switches over to a long, virtuoso flashback that reveals everything her hero has only guessed. This hoary trick shouldn’t work, but it does, gathering tremendous suspense as it builds to a shattering climax.
Originally published in Norway in 1995, this tour de force doesn’t have the remorseless wall-to-wall creepiness of Sejer’s most chilling cases (The Caller, 2012, etc.). But it’s more than a worthy introduction to one of Norway’s leading cops for newcomers and a treasure for fans.