Norway’s Inspector Konrad Sejer, back from his hiatus (I Can See in the Dark, 2014, etc.) and feeling his mortality more acutely than ever, leads the inquiry into the death of a toddler with Down syndrome.
It might not even seem like a suspicious death. Carmen Cesilie Zita, whose father owns the fast-food place where her husband, Nicolai Brandt, works, has gone and left their 16-month-old son, Tommy, alone in the room (Nicolai’s in the basement repairing a bicycle) just long enough for him to stagger outside and tumble into a pond 50 meters away. But Sejer’s friend and colleague Jacob Skarre thinks there’s something off about Carmen, who weeps copiously but seems curiously detached and eager to get on with her life, getting rid of all Tommy’s clothing and furniture with undue haste and asking Nicolai if they can get a dog now. The grieving father tells Sejer, “that’s just how she is all the time….She’s just pretending.” There’s little enough the police can do with a witness so artlessly determined to shrug them off, and readers who’ve followed Sejer’s cases will know better than to expect a triumph of sweetness and light. Instead, they’ll be asked to agonize along with Tommy’s parents about whether it would have been better if Carmen had had an abortion and asked to hope along with Sejer that he isn’t quite as decrepit as his mysterious spells of dizziness would suggest.
Minimalist but compelling work from the author who seems to have inherited the late Ruth Rendell’s gift of spinning the darkest complications out of what might seem like nothing at all.