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When the Devil Holds the Candle Paperback – 2 January 2014
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Explores the process of scapegoating, and the awful human cost of false accusations ... may well bring the half-Swedish Ruth Rendell irresistibly to mind -- Boyd Tonkin ― Independent
Fossum's elucidation of the criminally degenerate mind is first-rate ― Mail on Sunday
An engrossing pyschological thriller ― Sunday Telegraph
- Publisher : VINTAGE ARROW - MASS MARKET; 1st edition (2 January 2014)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 009956548X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0099565482
- Dimensions : 12.93 x 2.39 x 19.71 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 1,079,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Konrad Sejur is a refreshing change from so many fictional detectives. He is, above all, a good man: deeply, sincerely moral (although not religious), considerate, even courtly in his manners, a man who believes that civil society depends upon the rule of law and upon each citizen cooperating to make that law work. You feel his pain and disappointment when (inevitably) so many of his fellow citizens fail to do so.
This particular work, as the Aamzon blurb suggests, tells a story which could have been written by Stephen King. What Karin Fossum brings to it is an awareness of the fragility of each person touched by the crime. She writes with a delicate touch, and the awfulness of the crime is allowed to blossom on its own, and at its own pace (this is a hint to those who insist on relentlessly 'fast-paced' works that perhaps you might want to look elsewhere!). But the suspense is real, and if you like thrillers with a bit of subtlety, a bit of believable, real-world horror, I think you'll have a hard time putting this one down.
Opening with Skarre encountering an elderly lady who seems possessed and rambles incoherently about a missing person, he is left with the distinct impression that he is dealing with a senile woman lamenting on her husbands impending death. As she flees the station without giving further details she remains on his mind. It is only days later that Skarre is able to make some sense of her words and deduce the true significance of her testimony. From that point on Fossum takes her readers back to the prior days and introduces best friends and errant young men in the shape of good looking and dominant Andreas and his hanger-on and lackey, Sivert Skorpe, better known as Zipp. Although Andreas has a job at the local cash and carry that supplies beer money for the pair it is Zipp who has the car and together they terrorise the town looking for action, creating mayhem and frequently watching action movies. What begins as a simple theft of the purse of a young mother backfires somewhat when she loses control of her pram and her child falls onto the path. Things soon escalates into something seemingly far more serious as Andreas and Zipp seek to rid themselves of this memory and opt for an easier victim. Typically cowardly their next mark is sixty-year-old Irma Funder, a bitter and lonely elderly lady who rails against the obligations and duties imposed by a society where she has never known freedom or been loved. Irma has one friend, but in common with her sterile view of life she considers her merely as someone to spend time with without too much discomfort. As a confident Andreas breaks into her home his failure to re-emerge leaves Zipp with a dilemma; namely how is he to tackle the situation without revealing their criminal intent? As the days pass and the disappearance sends his mother, Runi, to the police, all the while a seriously injured Andreas is lying within the confines of Irma Funder's home. But as the hours turn into days, Irma gives her victim water and eventually finds a purpose in her capacity to condemn reprobate Andreas to either life or death.
Once again Fossum delivers a tale of complicated and unhappy individuals and shows the destructive and often unintentional effects when their paths cross. Cleverly Fossum leaves her readers to decide on whether justice is served for any of the involved parties. When The Devil Holds a Candle may leave a bitter aftertaste but is is a powerful analysis of compounding mistakes damning the fates of Fossum's well deployed characters. On a personal note, Sejer's relationship with psychologist, Sara, who he met in the previous case is still in progress, despite his first qualms over their long-term compatibility and in another investigation, that of drunk student Robert charged with murdering his girlfriend, the outcome weighs heavily on Sejer. At times difficult to read yet always providing food for thought and an intelligent commentary on modern society, Fossum proves herself worthy of comparison to the esteemed Ruth Rendell.
Review written by Rachel Hall (@hallrachel)