Inspector Konrad Sejer investigates an apparently pointless double murder while the interspersed flashbacks that make up the greater part of this sad tale show the victims inching ever closer to a remorseless fate.
Who would want to kill a home help aide and her 5-year-old son—and not just kill them, but stab them both repeatedly with evident fury? And how could the murderer even have known that Bonnie and Simon Hayden were spending a night—only one night, as farmer Robert Randen assures Sejer and his fellow investigator, Jacob Skarre—in an ancient caravan Randen kept parked in a field outside the town of Skarven? There seems so little point in questioning Bonnie’s parents, torn between mystification and grief, or any of the deftly sketched, variously infirm clients she’d juggled over an 8-year period that Fossum wisely subordinates the present-tense inquiries of Sejer (The Drowned Boy, 2015, etc.) to a series of vignettes of Bonnie and Simon’s hardscrabble life over the past six months and a complementary past-tense account of another mother and her son. Thomasine Malthe, abandoned by the husband who ran off with their babysitter to Copenhagen and died there, has struggled ever since to raise her mentally challenged son, Eddie, against mounting obstacles. Now that the boy is 21, he’s determined to act on his own dreams, from poisoning the neighbor’s cat to finding his father’s grave, though these dreams don’t include employment or a path to independence.
Fossum traces the parallels between the mothers and sons so patiently, precisely, and compassionately that even fans who know all too well what’s bound to happen when their paths converge will be shocked into fresh grief themselves.