Books
The Water's Edge

by Karin Fossum
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, July 2010, $

The Water's Edge is a skillful novel that concerns a particularly vile crime: pedophilia. It also marks the return of Fossum's austere detective Konrad Sejer and his youthful sidekick, Jacob Skarre, who investigate the psychology of small-town Norwegians as crime interrupts the ordinary rhythms of their quiet communities. The surfaces of Fossum's mysteries are always deceptively placid; underneath, disturbing things churn in the dark.

A couple taking their customary walk to a remote lake find the body of a child and call the police. Kristine is horrified when her husband, Reinhardt, bends close to take a photo with his cell phone. As Sejer and Skarre investigate, Reinhardt begins to feed off the publicity, proud to have a central role in the story; Kristine begins to contemplate divorce. Then a second child disappears.

In spite of its grim subject, Fossum handles her story without a grain of sensationalism. Readers know from the start who is responsible for the first child's death; and while we feel no sympathy for him, he's not a larger-than-life threat. He's a sick, stunted man who gave into a dreadful impulse. As Sejer and Skarre probe into the life of the missing child they demonstrate a fundamental law of Fossum's universe: Nobody is blameless; everyone is capable of cruelty. The author handles the most despicable of crimes with restraint while uncovering the hidden violence of ordinary lives. It's a short but brilliant book that ends, as hers often do, on a note of unsettling ambiguity.

Barbara Fister

The Water's Edge is a skillful novel that concerns a particularly vile crime: pedophilia. It also marks the return of Fossum's austere detective Konrad Sejer and his youthful sidekick, Jacob Skarre, who investigate the psychology of small-town Norwegians as crime interrupts the ordinary rhythms of their quiet communities. The surfaces of Fossum's mysteries are always deceptively placid; underneath, disturbing things churn in the dark.

A couple taking their customary walk to a remote lake find the body of a child and call the police. Kristine is horrified when her husband, Reinhardt, bends close to take a photo with his cell phone. As Sejer and Skarre investigate, Reinhardt begins to feed off the publicity, proud to have a central role in the story; Kristine begins to contemplate divorce. Then a second child disappears.

In spite of its grim subject, Fossum handles her story without a grain of sensationalism. Readers know from the start who is responsible for the first child's death; and while we feel no sympathy for him, he's not a larger-than-life threat. He's a sick, stunted man who gave into a dreadful impulse. As Sejer and Skarre probe into the life of the missing child they demonstrate a fundamental law of Fossum's universe: Nobody is blameless; everyone is capable of cruelty. The author handles the most despicable of crimes with restraint while uncovering the hidden violence of ordinary lives. It's a short but brilliant book that ends, as hers often do, on a note of unsettling ambiguity.

Xav ID 1
366
Fossum
July 2010
the-water-s-edge
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt