I thought this book was great. I've read few books that seem quite so accomplished in every respect: it's lyrical in places, it's humorous in places, it's gripping, it's graphic, it contains a great deal of psychological insight. Everything that makes up a good mystery novel was in this book.
One of the things I really liked was that there wasn't a feeling in the town that Errki was dangerous. The police were very thoughtful about thow whole issue, and some of the people were actually quite well-disposed towards him. But at the same time, in the book's opening there is a description of Errki hallucinating his intestines slithering through his fingers like baby snakes.
What stood out for me was not so much specific characters as the relationships between them, like Morgan and Errki becoming strange friends - there was a lot of humour in that relationship despite the tension - and Inspector Sejer and Errki's doctor. This book is character driven, which gives it a leisurely pace, even though there's so much going on.
I also really liked that this book is sort of anti-CSI in the sense that it's more than just physical clues that get you to the end of the book. It's more interesting to have the mystery exposed through the characters interacting than through test tubes and fingerprint analysis.
I think the message of this book comes right out of Errki's mouth when he says "We humans think we can control things, but things just happen."
Other reviews by Paul Bergen:
Darkly Dreaming Dexter
The level of the prose of this book is superior to most crime fiction. Fossum is a literary writer, her first book was a collection of poetry. Maybe European writers don't make such black and white distinctions between crime fiction and literary fiction.
I thought the characterizations in particular were the best part of the book. You have Errki's two voices, Nester and the Coat, and Nester seems to have this vaguely malevolent influence on Errki, but it's not over the top the way you'd see it in many stories. The Coat was very shadowy but it felt very real to me. Kannick was also really well drawn, this lonely 12-year old chubby kid who lives in a group home. The intersection between Errki and Kannick and the way it plays out over the course of the novel is pretty amazing.
I also really enjoed the relationship between Inspector Sejer and the doctor, all of the scenes between them I lived. I'm a romantic sap I guess. I really like the way that relationship unfolded, and the restraint that Fossum used while advancing it.
I think a real mystery weenie might have got the clues, but I didn't. I was sucked in right until the end.
Other reviews by Scot Morison: