2011/3 Bad Intentions


Fossum is one of Norway’s leading crime writers and, with the publication of her books into English, has developed a strong reputation on the international stage. Her focus is always upon the psychological dimension to a particular set of violent events (and she is not afraid to go into some dark corners!) and, in particular, into the state of mind of the perpetrators of violent crime, rather than the victims. So, whilst she might not be accused of having sympathy with her psychopaths and murderers, she does seem to set out to understand them and explain them. As such her novels focus primarily upon the ‘why’, rather than the ‘who’ and the ‘how’, which is the territory of the traditional whodunnit. In this context her detective, Inspector Konrad Sejer, is a sympathetic, but unusual character. He is rarely centre stage in the novels (and certainly isn’t in Bad Intentions) and the reader does not really come to know him as well as other fictional detectives. Indeed he is far less interesting as a character than many other fictional detectives. Although he is wise and perceptive (perhaps even ‘all-knowing’), he doesn’t do an awful lot of detecting. Infact, he barely breaks into na sweat. It is as if he is simply there as a magnet around which truth, order and clarity can slowly form.

Bad Intentions is a short novel (I read it in a single sitting with just a short break for tea) and the economy of the writing drives the narrative at a swift pace. Without recounting the plot, it concerns a tangled web of lies, woven by a group of young people as a result of a tragic accident, which in turn leads to a greater tragedy. But Fossum seems to be suggesting that an equal tragedy is the wasted young lives of the guilty.

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