In Norway's busy university town of Tromsf, the Christmas time disappearance of Martin Forsyth (an English-speaking stranger) is scarcely noticed until the spring thaw uncovers his murdered corpse. And so Inspector Fagermo must piece together the dead man's identity, background, and last known movements--a painstaking detection process which does, with patience and persistence, conjure up the picture of a tough, calculating, mean-spirited young man who had an eye for vulnerable women and the main chance. Eventually, however, it will be Forsyth's work as a crew hand in the Middle East that produces the unusually convincing who-and-why of the murder. And, as usual, though the police-procedural elements here are splendid, it is Barnard's glorious gallery of supporting players--seen with a sardonic but compassionate eye--which lifts the well-made mystery to a higher, richer level: a boringly self-involved clerical worker at the local US Information Office; a coldfish professor with a nymphomaniac wife (to whom even Fagermo's sergeant is fair game); and Forsyth's English parents, done to a chilling turn in interviews with the Inspector. All the expected Barnard dividends, then, plus the engagingly unfamiliar Norwegian locale--a not-to-be-missed combination from the most appealing and reliable practitioner of the classic British mystery to arrive here in the last decade.