I Can See in the Dark
Those American readers of mystery and thriller fiction who have yet to encounter Karin Fossum, author of the addictive Inspector Sejer crime novels, will consider I CAN SEE IN THE DARK to be a perfect introduction to her dark world.
This is a short novel, a stand-alone work that cuts deep but not long. Ably translated by James Anderson, the story demands to be read in one sitting. Its protagonist and narrator in the present tense is a simply horrible person named Riktor, who works at the Løkka Nursing Home. His place of employment is God’s waiting room, the last stop for the terminally ill. I don’t like giving away plot details, particularly when they are as well laid out as they are by Fossum, so let’s just say that Riktor is particularly ill-suited to be working where he is. Antisocial and lacking in any sort of empathy, he spends his nights at work and his days sitting in a nearby park and observing. When he does make what one might call an acquaintanceship with someone in the park, the result is disastrous, which he has cause to regret.
"In just a little over 200 pages, Fossum lays bare as dark a soul as you might meet in fiction this year in a chilling and unblinking presentation."
These reservations increase one-hundredfold when a police investigator named Randers begins doggedly turning up on Riktor’s doorstep, hinting that he can all but prove Riktor guilty of an unnamed crime. Randers is Riktor’s Inspector Javert (though with much better and more sympathetic reason), and he will not be denied. Riktor is ultimately charged with a heinous crime; ironically, though, it is one of which he --- guilty of so many other transgressions --- is entirely innocent, or at least as innocent as someone of his predispositions can possibly be.
One is put in the mind of the immortal statement of Tom Sawyer’s sour Aunt Polly, who, after discovering that she has corporally punished her nephew for an offense he did not commit, notes by way of apology that he never missed a lick. So, too, here with Riktor, but with much greater reason. His biggest offense, however, sits like a ticking clock within him, almost certain to be exposed, just when he believes he has gotten away with it.
I CAN SEE IN THE DARK is part courtroom thriller, part psychological study, and part police procedural mystery, with all the cards revealed. In just a little over 200 pages, Fossum lays bare as dark a soul as you might meet in fiction this year in a chilling and unblinking presentation. That one never knows what will happen next heightens the suspense to an excruciating degree, so much so that the excitement lingers even after the last page is read. Set aside an afternoon to read this book and then plan to catch up on Fossum’s backlist. Neither should be missed.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 15, 2014