Sunday, August 28, 2016

Very, Very Dark: HELL FIRE, from Karin Fossum

HELL FIRE is the 12th in Karin Fossum's Inspector Sejer series, and it's grim, violent, and graphic. That said, it's also insightful and precise in its language and imagery, and I'm always willing to read another by Fossum ... but also always depressed afterward. There are no happy endings in this series.

The frame is a double story of single parenting in Norway. One is the daily struggle of caregiver Bonnie Hayden, whose heart breaks a little bit each time she has to leave her crying five-year-old at day care. The other is Mass Malthe, raising a boy with obvious "issues" around food, cruelty, and power. In a relentless double spiral, Fossum entwines the two sets of lives. Those who read crime fiction regularly will have no doubt about who's done what, from very early in the book. What Fossum does though that keeps the book compelling and the pages turning is show the navigation of ordinary lives and the tiny changes of direction that eventually create a horrifying collision.

In that sense, this is a literary novel rather than a genre page-turner. I'd hesitate to hand it to anyone who's not already a Fossum fan, though; it's darker than night, with few guiding stars, and even the kindly and wounded Inspector Sejer won't come out of this one with the same soul that he brought into it.

From HMH Books, with an August 30 release.

For other reviews, click here.

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