When the Devil Holds the Candle
Karin Fossum
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Buy *When the Devil Holds the Candle: An Inspector Sejer Mystery* by Karin Fossum online

When the Devil Holds the Candle: An Inspector Sejer Mystery
Karin Fossum
272 pages
June 2007
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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The intrepid Inspector Sejer returns in a thriller that is impossible to put down. Along with his able assistant, Jacob Skarre, Sejer hardly realizes the unfolding scenario, unable to ascertain vital connections until events prove impossible to ignore. Sejer is enjoying a new lease on life since the untimely death of his beloved wife with a new romance and a grandson, Matteus.

Andreas and Zipp dominate the beginning of the novel, two inseparable young men avid for action, their anti-social behavior fueled by drinking bouts. Their victims are helpless and unsuspecting in this scathing indictment of youthful self-indulgence and the private torments of a damaged mind on a collision course with fate.

Andreas is tall, handsome, clearly the leader of the pair, a man-about-town dismissing his less intellectual partner’s foolish pretensions. Zipp, the moody sidekick, is compact and tense, constantly needing to prove his manhood. Their petty crime sprees are spontaneous, with little thought for the consequences of their actions.

Irma Funder appears at first to be a peripheral character, a recluse shirking social contacts and beset with the paranoia that preys on her sanity, “the hideous, evil person you become when the devil holds the candle.” Yet Irma soon becomes a central figure, balancing life and death in her incapable hands.

When Andreas goes missing, there is no trace, in spite of Skarre’s careful investigation of the circumstances. Meanwhile, an old woman lurks in the shadows, unable to communicate either her knowledge or her fears. Skarre listens finally to his intuition, working with Sejer through an improbable tangle of seemingly unrelated crimes and a fated meeting with explosive violence.

Through Norway’s undisputed Queen of Crime’s masterful plotting, these characters clash dramatically, their futures entwined. Inspector Sejer and Jacob Skarre arrive late in a complex series of events, miscalculations and blunders turned deadly.

The air of menace builds, the characters lunging toward a shocking conclusion that confounds all but the most cynical observer/ It is a stunning exploration of arrogance, beauty, ugliness, loneliness, social isolation and a need for acceptance.

As she has done in previous novels, Fossum reveals her imperfect characters through their inner dialogs, reshaping the horizon from broken and distorted perceptions. Such people are vulnerable to this author’s agile scrutiny, the frailties and flaws common to all of humankind, familiar shadowy places that most of us hide successfully.

Nothing is simple, people driven to acts of brutality and a more aberrant rationalization for continuing the destruction of the delicate fabric of society. The novel precipitously plummets toward the unknown, characters tumbling together through events none can control, even the determined and noble Inspector Sejer.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Luan Gaines, 2006

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