Inspector Sejer returns in this expertly crafted mystery about troubled teenagers—and two tragic deaths.
"I not only enjoyed it but admired it, too. I also found it playing in my head for a long time afterwards, the effect on the reader every writer surely longs for." --Lesley McDowell, Sunday Herald
"The seventh Inspector Sejer novel from Norway's leading female crime writer is, like its predecessors, a gem." --Laura Wilson, Guardian
"Few match her ability to conjure an atmosphere of emotional as well as geographical desolation." --Marcel Berlins, The Times
Norway's Inspector Konrad Sejer is less an agent or character than a brooding presence in this slim, penetrating tale of a falling-out among conspirators.
Jon Moreno's childhood friends have signed him out of the Ladegården Psychiatric Hospital for only a weekend, but he doesn't survive even their first night. Instead he falls out of their boat and into the lake called Dead Water. Philip Reilly, the big porter at Central Hospital, wants first to dive in after him and then, once all hope is gone, to call the police. But Axel Frimann, the advertising executive who's always been the leader of the trio, easily talks him out of both ideas and into lying to Sejer and his sergeant, Jacob Skarre, when they do show up, exactly as if they'd committed some sort of crime. The investigation that follows is understated but pointed, especially after the diary Jon left behind makes it clear that he was indeed involved in something that had left him shattered and wracked by guilt. And the discovery of the swollen body of Kim Van Chau, found in Glitter Lake nine months after he disappeared from a party at which all three friends were present, provides an obvious foundation for those feelings. But what exactly caused Kim's death, and what can Sejer do about it?
Sejer's questioning, the diary, an accident at Jon's funeral, a kitten Reilly rescues from the woods—they all pave the way for a climax with strong echoes of Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale.
Read an Excerpt
THE LAKE, WHICH WAS commonly known as Dead Water, lay like a well between steep mountains, and anyone who tried to wade into it would sink up to their knees in its soft mud. On the shore, partially hidden by spruce trees, sat a small log cabin. Axel Frimann was looking out of the window. It was almost midnight on September 13 and the moon cast a pale blue light across the water. There was something magical about it all. At any moment, Axel imagined, a water sprite might rise from the depths. Just as the image came to him, he thought he saw a ripple in the water as though something was about to surface. But nothing happened and a smile, which no one noticed, crossed his face.
He turned to the other two and suggested that they should go rowing. “Have you seen the light,” he said, “it’s really cool.”
Philip Reilly was reading. He tossed his long hair.
“Yes, why not?” he said. “A trip on the lake. What do you say, Jon?”
Jon Moreno was lost in the flames of the fireplace. The fire made him feel warm and dizzy. In his hand he held a blister pack of anti-anxiety pills and every four hours he pressed one through the foil and put it in his mouth.
Did he want to go out on the lake?
He looked at Axel and Reilly. There is something about their eyes, something evasive, he thought, but then again, I’m not quite myself, I’m ill, I’m taking medication, calm down, they’re my friends, they just want what’s best for me. But he did not want to go out on the lake, not in the middle of the night in the cold moonlight. He did not trust himself completely. In here by the fire he felt safe, in here between the timber walls, in the company of his friends, because they were his friends, weren’t they? He tried to catch Reilly’s eye, but Reilly had got up and was fumbling with something on a shelf.
“It’s important that you get some exercise,” Axel said. “Sitting still only makes your anxiety worse. You need to get your blood circulating, get it delivering oxygen to your cells. So come on.”
Jon did not want to let them down. They were doing this for him, they wanted him to have some fun and he did not have much of that at the hospital. Only endless days where nothing ever happened, spent wandering up and down the corridors. They were smiling at him, encouraging him now, Axel with his dark eyes, Reilly with his gray ones. So he got up from the chair and put the blister pack in his pocket. He never went anywhere without it. He reached out for his cell phone which lay on the table, but changed his mind. His anxiety hummed through his body like an electric current. Somewhere a demon is flicking a switch, on and off, on and off, he thought, and I can’t breathe.
“Put your jacket on,” Axel said. “It’s chilly.”
Jon looked around for his jacket. He could not remember where he had put it, but Axel found it and brought it over. Reilly blew out the paraffin lamp and a sudden darkness descended upon them. Jon knelt down to lace up his boots. A knot and a bow followed by another knot. Axel and Reilly waited.
“What about the fire?” Jon asked.
“We won’t be gone long, there’s no danger,” Axel said. “Come on.”
“Shouldn’t we put the fireguard in front of it?”
Axel shrugged. “All right.”
He disappeared into the kitchen and they heard him scrabbling. Then he returned with the fireguard and placed it in front of the fire. The cast-iron fireguard was decorated with two wolves baring their teeth.
Jon looked at the wolves and at his two friends.
“We ready to go then?” Axel said.
Reilly nodded. Jon stuck his hands in his pockets. Axel patted him on the shoulder. His hand was warm and comforting. Trust us, the hand said, we only want what’s best for you, you’re among friends.
It was Friday, September 13. They went out into the dark night and fetched the oars from the shed.
A narrow path led down to the shore of Dead Water.
What People are saying about this
— Lesley McDowell, Sunday Herald
"The seventh Inspector Sejer novel from Norway's leading female crime writer is, like its predecessors, a gem."
— Laura Wilson, Guardian
"Few match her ability to conjure an atmosphere of emotional as well as geographical desolation."
— Marcel Berlins, The Times
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