Quite a while ago, I was sent a review copy of the latest Karin Fossum title by Mike Stotter, editor of that excellent online crimezine Shots. I’ve read Fossum in the past – He Who Fears the Wolf, a book I thought pretty good – but it took me a long time to read The Water’s Edge.
This was, in part, due to pressure of work and other commitments, but it was also due in part to the subject matter, which is the mistreatment and murder of young boys. I find books which deal with the harming of children difficult to read, although I recognise that this is not only an entirely legitimate subject for crime fiction, but an important one. Well-written fiction can sometimes help to give us an insight into cruel or sociopathic behaviour that otherwise one finds inexplicable, as well as deeply offensive.
Fossum certainly is a skilled writer, and The Water’s Edge is a sensitively composed book. It begins, after a short italicised preamble, with a man walking through a wood, carrying a ‘burden’ which, it becomes plain, is the body of a child. But he is spotted by a couple who are taking a walk. Kristine and Reinhardt react in very different ways to their experience of seeing a child-killer, and the story of their disintegrating relationship is one of the most compelling strands of the whole book.
Once the body is found, the detective work is done, as usual, by Inspector Sejer, but soon he has another missing boy to contend with. The story is as dark as the heart of a Swedish forest. I can’t say that I found this one fun to read, but I did admire Fossum’s literary accomplishment and insights into human behaviour..