Thursday, May 27, 2010

a review of "The Indian Bride" [38]

The Indian Bride: An Inspector Sejer Mystery
by Karin Fossum
(Harcourt, ISBN 978-0-15-101182-7)

It is not very often when a mystery book begins with a love story, but The Indian Bride is an exception. Gunder Jomann is a rather dull, lonely, middle aged bachelor, a tractor salesman who live, quite comfortably, in the little Norwegian town of Elvestad. But at night, he looks at the photograph in a magazine of an exotic Indian woman, dressed in a beautiful sari, and dreams that maybe he could find someone. When he suddenly packs his bags, takes his vacation and flies to India to look for a bride, every one who knows him is surprised. When he returns home and tells people that he actually met someone, the waitress in a restaurant he frequented every day he was there, proposed and married her, they are amazed. He returns home to Norway to prepare things for Poona's arrival in a few weeks and his happiness and anticipation are touching.
But this is a murder mystery, so we know things are not going to turn out well.

On the day he is scheduled to pick her up at the airport, his married sister, with whom he is very close, is in a terrible car accident and hovers on the brink of death. Unable to locate her husband, he decides he can't leave her alone in the hospital and sends the town taxi driver to meet his bride. But the taxi driver says she never answered his page at the airport and returns to town without her. When she is not at his house when he makes it home the next morning, poor Gunder is beside himself when worry. When the brutally beaten body of an exotic looking woman is found in a field just a mile from his house, he knows that the worst has happen and Fossum's description of Gunder loss is simply heartbreaking.

Inspector Konrad Sejer arrives to investigate the horrible murder, a murder the residents of Elvestad can not believe anyone in there quiet little town could have committed. But Sejer has seen all to often the terrible things people can do to each other and as he begins his investigation, it seems many of the villagers have secrets they would prefer to remain unknown and reason to feel guilty.
“Whenever he caught a guilty person and obtained a genuine confession, he could close the case and file it. This time he was not so sure. Not only had the woman been killed, she had been beaten to a pulp. To kill was in itself extreme. To destroy a body afterward was bestial. He held many and frequently contradicting views about the concept of crime; primarily he was concerned with all the things they had yet to discover.”
Sejer is a rather odd policeman. As he says at one point, he hates “the ruthlessness of it, digging into other people's lives”, a rather different point of view for a detective. But dig he does, each in their turn, and it is soon believable that everyone connect to this case could be the murderer.

There are many things I love about Fossum's books. Her style is very clean and precise, without a lot of extra, unnecessary story. Her characters, the feeling of this small town are so wonderfully painted and rarely have I read an author who can so well express the reactions of the victims of a crime. As I said earlier, we the reader are heartbroken for Gunder and Poona, so close to finding happiness, even as we try to figure out who could have done this horrible thing and why they did it. This is a psychological mystery at it's best.

Now I will warn you about one thing. If you are a reader of mysteries where everything must be neatly wrapped up, all black and white, this book may upset you.
“You want the loose ends neatly tied at the end, “ Sejer said. “You want every last piece of the jigsaw in place. Because people are like that. Reality is different.”
No, this is not so easy a book....and to my mind the book is better for it, rising a bit above some of the more typical examples of the genre.

Strongly recommenced for fans of psychological mystery, police procedural and Scandinavian mysteries.


  1. Love the cover on this one and the story sounds great as well; thanks 4 mentioning it Caite

  2. You have gotten my attention with this one! The quote is right on...rarely in life is everything tied up neatly, and I don't like my thrillers like that either. And not that I'm bloodthirsty, but I don't mind the author throwing people under the bus.

  3. Awesome review....this one looks like it will definitely have to go onto the TBR pile. I really like the premise of the combo love/mystery story.

  4. Sold ... to the reader who trusts Caite!

  5. Great review. I like Fossum a lot. Have you read Johan Theorin's The Darkest Room? It's got a lighthouse in it!

  6. a lighthouse you say? {{off to google...}}


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