A powerful and unsettling book, this is a careful study of a young man’s experience around murder. This is not an American tale of a school shooting; rather it is a steady build up of suspicion and torment as much is investigated, many are suspicious, and everyone has a view as to the probable culprits. This book, set in contemporary Norway, is very much of its time as social media is a commentary throughout in the hands of young people and a lot of the essential contact between all the parties is attempted on mobile phones. An intense book, its taut language and tense plot makes for far more than a murder mystery; the atmospheric treatment of a story from several viewpoints makes for a mature multi-layered novel full of interest. I was interested to receive a copy of this novel to read and review for a blog tour.
The book is essentially written in two times. Even Tollefsen is the young man at the centre of the story, and he relates the story of “Now” as he appears in court, possibly as the accused. Certainly he is asked to go through in great detail the events of the time labelled “Then”, which is the third person narration of various people’s discovery of the murder of two young people. The reader is presented with the story of Johannes Eklund as he is killed by an unknown assailant. It is only as Yngne Mork, the investigating officer moves around the school building when Johannes’ body is found, that another body is discovered. The small village of Fredheim becomes alive as the school at the centre of the village emerges as a murder scene and is cordoned off. Every character has a back story which appears in parallel to the proceedings of the court, but it is only as Even experiences the aftermath of the murders, slowly coming to terms with loss and the suspicions of the community, that he realises that his own family may have more than a straightforward traffic accident in its past. This complex novel keeps the action moving as it switches time and place, searching the experiences of several protagonists. It maintains an honesty about the relationships between young people, and how the many of the adults have a past.
I found this novel well written and a complex tale, as far more than a murderer is sought by clearly imagined police officers. The motives of many emerge as the characters are described, and there is a much careful description which can tend to slow the pace a little, making this a careful rather than fast paced novel. It is an intriguing picture of a village which has similarities with villages anywhere, and the fact that it is set in Norway does not prevent recognising the way that news spreads and pressures on individuals are felt. Secrets, suspicions and the sense of loss dominate this novel, which swings between chilling tension and pictures of people who are struggling. It is atmospheric and challenging and is far from predictable. It is an immersive read.
Another novel in translation, set in the Nordic countries. My reading while hosting blog tours has certainly widened! Watch out for a variety of reviews over the next few weeks, as I tackle crime(!), short stories, an historical read and even a book about poetry. Never a dull moment with Northernreader!