The talented Karin Fossum returns with a poignant thriller that reaches into the dark heart of an isolated village in Norway, where years of common social constructs have indelibly carved the face of the population of Elvestad. In this intimate village everyone knows everyone else, their business, their interests, their romances, marriages, and infidelities.
When the complacency of the village is rocked by the brutal slaying of a woman, her body left in a vacant field, no one wants to believe that a murderer could exist in their midst, part of the tight-knit fabric of Elvestad. For a while, the identity of the woman is a mystery; all that is known is that she is a stranger, with her brown skin and exotically colored outfit, her bangles and gold sandals.
When Inspector Konrad Sejer arrives at the scene with his trusted assistant, Jacob Skarre, he faces the dilemma of solving the case with uncooperative citizens determined to avoid the police or cast an accusing eye on one another. But first, Sejer must determine the identity of the woman whose face is mutilated by the savagery of the blows she endured in the final moments of her life.
Sejerís quest for the victimís name leads finally to the door of Gunder Jomann, an agricultural machinery salesman and fifty-one-year-old bachelor who has recently traveled to Mombai (Bombay until 1955) in search of a wife. There he met and married the unassuming Poona Bai, the couple immediately recognizing that they had waited all their lives for one another.
Gunder left Poona behind to tie up loose ends, arranging for her to fly to Norway in two weeks time. He spent his days making the house ready for its new mistress, his delicate, trusting wife never out of his thoughts. But on the day of Poonaís arrival, Gunderís sister, Marie, has a terrible accident and he is called to her bedside, the doctors unsure if Marie will ever regain consciousness. Desperate about Poonaís arrival, Gunder arranges for the one local taxi to meet his Indian bride at the airport.
Poona is not at the airport, nor does she come to Gunderís house throughout the long night. The wait becomes agony, until Inspector Sejerís knock at the door throws the suffering bridegroom into a rash of denials, unable to believe that the happiness he so recently found has been snatched from his grasp. But eventually the proof is undeniable, Gunderís world collapsing around him - no wife, his sister on life support.
Thus begins Sejerís thorough, frustrating investigation into the events of that fateful night. With the aid of an impressionable eyewitness who passed the scene of the crime on her bicycle, Sejer constructs the bare bones of what will prove to be a trying investigation, the hallmark of which is the villagerís reluctance to expose themselves or their friends to police scrutiny.
In a masterful blend of eccentric personalities and circumstantial evidence, Sejer arrests the obvious candidate for the crime when his alibi fails close scrutiny. But more meaningful and ultimately revelatory is the fledging love affair of a fifty-one-year-old man and the woman he loved, his exquisite appreciation for her and his reverential care of the few memories they shared. Fossumís brilliant prose, even in translation, transcends the genre, a tour de force of humanityís kindness and depravity.