Wednesday, January 28, 2009

REVIEW: When the Devil Holds the Candle

Title: When the Devil Holds the Candle
Author: Karin Fossum
Translated from the Norwegian by Felicity David
ISBN: 0151011885/ Harcourt Books, 2004
Mystery, #4 in the Inspector Konrad Sejer series
Rating: B+

First Line: The courthouse. September 4, 4 P.M.

Inspector Sejer seems to be coming out of his funk a bit. He has a new lady in his life to come home to when he's finished dealing with crime for the day. While his attention at work is focused on a mugging and a youth who shot his girlfriend in the face, his partner, Jacob Skarre, deals with a woman whose son has disappeared.

The missing boy, Andreas, is quite a piece of work. He and his best friend, "Zipp" prowl the streets by day and by night looking for purses to snatch so they have drinking money. Zipp is socially inept, and Andreas is his only friend. Andreas is handsome enough to have women falling at his feet, but he's a secretive sort and very content to hang out with Zipp. Everything changes for them one night when they follow a sixty-year-old woman home in order to rob her. Irma Funder turns out to be much more than they bargained for.

This third book in the series to be translated into English is more of a psychological thriller than a police procedural. The reader is privy to all as the pages turn and slowly reveal the characters of Andreas, Zipp and Irma. All three are victims. All three are trapped in some way. All are fascinatingly macabre. I often felt as though I were a victim myself, trapped in the hall of mirrors in a fun house with these people.

Fossum pens a chilling tale of how lives lacking supervision, employment and love can be twisted and forced over the edge into disaster. Although I didn't finish this book with an exclamation of "Wow!", the hairs on the back of my neck still prickle, and my heart still bleeds at the waste of lives the author portrays. Is it any wonder that Fossum, with her thoughtful, compassionate policeman, is one of my favorite authors?


  1. Gosh, that sounds interesting. And have I mentioned my weakness for Scandinavian mysteries...well, I have one. Perhaps I need to go check out the first in the series, because I also have a 'thing' about reading series in order.

  2. I have read 4-5 of Fossum´s books, and they tend to be ´psychological thrillers´ first and ´police procedurals´ next.
    I wonder, could I use this for my thriller challenge as an "inverted mystery", do you think?

  3. Great review. And as I have said before - there are definitely English-speaking readers out there who read more Scandinavian thrillers than myself. LOL. Anyway, I have awarded you with the Lets Be Friends Award :-)

  4. Bogsider, I loved the line from the Guardian article you linked on your blog about the popularity of Scandinavian mysteries.. "The plotlines are bleak, the locations are forbidding and the main characters are usually angst-ridden alcoholics." Yes! That is why I love

  5. Caite--you and I have a few things in common, like mystery series and reading them in order. I'll bet you've heard of Stop, You're Killing Me!

    Dorte--I think what I meant to say in my review (and didn't) is that there's even fewer appearances by the police than usual in this particular book.

    Thanks, Lou! I just got back in town. I'll be by in a day or two to pick it up!


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