Indian Bride and Black Seconds by Karin Fossum
Books 5 and 6 in the Inspector Sejer Series
A brief look at the problem with a series of books that are supposed to stand alone.
MASSIVE SPOILER ALERTS [Like, I’m going to give away the ending of a mystery novel.]
When my book club read Indian Bride, Karin Fossum’s well-received mystery novel,we were left perplexed. We mostly enjoyed the characters and found the book a quite serviceable mystery that made for a quick-read. We were willing to not think too much about why the people in the town were acting so weird. Many of their decisions and actions didn’t make sense to us and we let it be for the good of the story. The main character Gunder, even though we didn’t quite believe he went to India and found a wife in less than two weeks, was sweet enough to give the entire book a much needed boost.
Until the end.
Indian Bride sets up a potential murderer on page one. It’s a classic mystery novel plot where the book starts out with something or someone fishy, and the lead detective uncovers the facts. In Indian Bride, with just a few twists and turns, that guy from page one is the guy the Inspector pins the crime on. Which would have been fine, but me and my book club think that guy is not the murderer and Sejer has not solved the case. We think he nabbed the wrong guy based on a conversation between Einar (the café owner) and Mode at the very end of the book that suggests Mode was the killer and that he did it with a bowling ball. Because of that, and the scenes from the interrogation room, it seems Sejer has used his skillful interrogation techniques to force a false confession.
We couldn’t believe Inspector Sejer, mild mannered star of several novels, was actually a lousy detective. But that’s not the only problem with the ending. We also couldn’t believe the subplot of the witness stalking Sejer’s partner Skarre was left completely unresolved. We thought, despite the fact that Indian Bride is supposed to be able to stand on it’s own in the series, that the story was left woefully incomplete.
So I volunteered to read the next book in the series Black Seconds to see if answers were forth-coming. They were not.
Plot-wise, like Indian Bride, the book is laid out very traditionally. A young girl, Ida, goes out for a bike ride and doesn’t return. The plot twists here point guilt at a gruff, mute towns person and his mother, while also presenting the possibility that Ida’s cousin knows more than he’s letting on. In the end, there’s no question Sejer has found the right guy. You know, like a detective novel is supposed to end. Once again, we get to see Sejer working his magic in the interrogation room, but this time he skillfully gets to the truth even as he teases the story from a mute, intellectually impaired witness.
As in the Indian Bride, Fossum’s main focus is on how death affects people and the strange decisions people make when under duress. This gives the two cases some emotional depth. Fossum seems more concerned with the people death touches than she is with procedural crime. Both books have a bit of darkness to them, part of that Norwegian mentality that makes their crime novels so entertaining. Though Indian Bride’s end is too loose for me, in Black Seconds Inspector Sejer proves to be a congenial guide through the psychology of crime.
However, the only reason I read Black Seconds was to see if the unaddressed issues from the previous book would be resolved. They weren’t (except he finally puts down is old dog, the only carryover story). Indian Bride won the awards and accolades. It’s centerpiece love story is far-fetched, but beautifully handled. Still, the thrust of the novel, who killed the Indian Bride, remains murky. Black Seconds hangs together more completely as a mystery novel that keeps you guessing and shows the inspector’s skills. That’s what a basic, stand alone, mystery book is supposed to do.
I should note that Fossum’s novels were written in one order and released in America in a different order. I made every effort to read the next novel written after Indian Bride. If I got the wrong one, then the publisher is asking too much of a reader to figure out the order of the story.