"He who fears the wolf shouldn't go into the forest." The new novel from Karin Fossum (Don't Look Back), translated for publication in this country, once more features the intractable Chief Inspector Konrad Sejer and his sidekick, Detective Skarre, as they ponder a most unusual case.
Shortly after a schizophrenic escapes from a nearby mental institution, an elderly woman, Halldis Horn, is found murdered, her body lying across the steps of her small home. But there is a witness, an overweight boy who lives in a group home, Kannick Snellingen. Kannick hastily informs local law enforcement, and Chief Inspector Konrad Sejer is called to investigate the crime but gets sidetracked by a bank robbery/hostage situation that occurs moments after Sejer notices a suspicious character entering the bank.
The security tapes of the robbery indicate that the hostage is none other than Errki Johrma, the escaped mental patient, his long black hair and feminine gait fooling the Inspector into assuming the hostage is a woman. The bank robber, Morgan, hadn't thought out his moves ahead of time and is now saddled with a mentally unbalanced companion who is completely unpredictable and may have brutally murdered an elderly woman.
As Sejer and Skarre sift through the forensic evidence on the trail of the murderer, another drama plays out: Errki, the schizophrenic, Morgan, the bank robber, and Kannick, the obese boy with a passion for archery, circle each other in confusion, forming unlikely alliances, their fates linked for a short time on that devastating summer evening. In a chain reaction that leads from disaster to disaster, the three misfits are drawn together in a macabre dance that sends them all reeling and one left dead. Navigating the fragmented lives of the unwanted and unsound, Fossum's tale is both shocking and sad, a poignant study of society's unfortunates.
Sejer turns for guidance to Errki's psychiatrist, Dr. Struel, a woman who strikes a spark of curiosity in a man who has buried himself in his work since the death of his wife. Dr. Struel paints a different picture of the troubled young man, explaining the dynamics of Errki's illness and his particular vulnerabilities. Errki adds another dimension to this murder mystery for Inspector Sejer, psychological complexities that confuse and confound. Errki's actions are totally spontaneous, motivated only by the need for self-protection.
Anxious to find the robber and his hostage before more violence occurs, Sejer has no idea that forces have already been set in motion, random actions that leave tragedy in their wake. As the Inspector well knows, it is dangerous to jump to conclusions, guided, as always, by his logic and intuition. The taciturn Sejer is on the verge of a new beginning in spite of the events unraveling around him, finding hope in a world where he is all too familiar with darkness.