If you already are familiar with Karin Fossum's Inspector Konrad Sejer series, you really have no need to read further. In fact, you probably have already obtained the original native language version of BAD INTENTIONS and hired your best friend's Norwegian aunt to read it to you. For the uninitiated, Fossum's talent is nothing less than stunning; and reading just the first few pages of this book --- lovingly translated by Charlotte Barslund --- will no doubt make you a fan for life.
"Fossum is a keen storyteller with an ability to propel the reader through her narrative from first page to last. And in BAD INTENTIONS, she does that with the best of them."
There is no great mystery in BAD INTENTIONS, at least from a whodunit standpoint. That is almost immediately clear from the beginning, when we meet Axel, Reilly, and the very-soon-to-be-deceased Jon, each of whom are extremely damaged to varying degrees in very different ways. Jon is the most fragile, Reilly the most immature, and Axel the most cunning and amoral. It is Jon who is coaxed into a watery suicide for reasons that are not immediately clear. Sejer and his extremely capable partner, Jacob Skarre, are talked into the investigation into Jon's death. Sejer finds a few seemingly inconsequential inconsistencies to be troubling, not the least of which is the fact that the three friends were questioned regarding the disappearance of a teenaged Vietnamese boy some months before.
It is obvious to Sejer that Axel and Reilly are hiding something. But what is apparent and what can be proven are two different things, and Sejer is haunted by the possibility that the crime may go unresolved. The pact of silence between Axel and Reilly slowly unravels, tugged by internal and external forces, not the least of which includes the dogged and taciturn Sejer, a widower who buries himself in his work as a way of adjusting to his unhappy personal situation, which in turn is implicitly aggravated by the bleak Norwegian landscape. Justice is almost certain to have its way; the method and degree of it provides the punch here.
Sejer is one of the more interesting and quietly complex characters one is likely to encounter in crime fiction, a steely investigator and interrogator possessed of a keen empathy for the victim and those left behind. Fossum is a keen storyteller with an ability to propel the reader through her narrative from first page to last. And in BAD INTENTIONS, she does that with the best of them.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 6, 2011