Saturday, 28 April 2018

I Can See in the Dark by Karin Fossum – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘Riktor doesn’t like the way the policeman comes straight into the house without knocking. He doesn’t like the arrogant way he observes his home. The policeman doesn’t tell him why he’s there, and Riktor doesn’t ask. Because he knows he’s guilty of a terrible crime.

But it turns out that the policeman isn’t looking for a missing person. He is accusing Riktor of something totally unexpected. Riktor doesn’t have a clear conscience, but this is one crime he certainly didn’t commit.’

I have always enjoyed Scandinavian noirs and even though I have followed some TV dramas, I haven’t read a book till I read Karin Fossum. This is a book originally published in Norwegian and I am placing unconditional reliance on James Anderson’s translation of the book to English.

In the Norwegian town of Løkka, there is an aged nurse, probably in his mid-fifties who likes to visit the park in his locality often. Unlike the usual protagonists, he is not likeable, at all; he is extremely rude, he tends to be a recluse, is apathetic to the happenings in the surroundings and yes, deliberately sabotages the medication of his ageing patients. The book adds an element of mystery from the very first page wherein, the name of the narrator is revealed only after around 30 pages. He had a paradoxical personality, wherein, he loved his life of solitude and at the same time, was desperate for the presence of a woman in his life. Over the course of the story, he even tries to befriend an acquaintance in the park but it ends up going terribly wrong.

Before too long, the police arrive at his place, and he is charged with a murder; of one of his patients. While he has been an indirect cause of death for many of patients, this was certainly not a crime that he had committed and was desperate to prove that he was free from guilt.

Since we know the criminal in this crime novel, the author kept the interest of the reader by uncovering every element of the case gradually, giving unexpected shocks to the protagonist and his prosecutors when facts are revealed. The life of Riktor when he was in remand was also brought out well, how he was consciously trying to change himself so that he could lead a normal life once he is declared not guilty; he offers to assist kitchen work in the prison. He becomes desperate for the company of the chef at the kitchen, Margarethe, which was aspects of the book where he consciously attempts to change himself.

The book, however, introduced too many characters in the initial few pages, the people who frequent the park, his colleagues at the hospital and his patients. It turned out being quite difficult to go back and find out who the character was as, you could never judge whether someone was going to turn out significant or not. Moreover, while the author did a commendable job in building a character as complex as Riktor and helping the reader enjoy every bit of his characterisation, there were hardly such details for any of the other characters. Understandably so, Riktor is the narrator but then, it felt like I was effectively reading the character’s personal diary rather than a narration of events.

To put things to perspective, the book is a quick read, and I found the premise interesting wherein, the lead protagonist is totally not likeable. I liked how the author managed to retain the suspense elements for a long time to come and unveiled them one after the other, keeping the reader’s interest going. Considering that, I would award the book a rating of seven on ten.

Rating – 7/10

Have a nice day,

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