When the Devil Holds the Candle

When the Devil Holds the Candle

4.3 6
by Karin Fossum, Random House UK

View All Available Formats & Editions

When the theft of a purse from a stroller results in an infant's death, two teenagers are in trouble. Unaware of the enormity of their crime, Zipp and Andreas are intent on committing still another. They follow an elderly woman home, and Andreas enters her house with his ever-reliable switchblade. Motionless in the dark, Zipp waits for his friend to come out.…  See more details below


When the theft of a purse from a stroller results in an infant's death, two teenagers are in trouble. Unaware of the enormity of their crime, Zipp and Andreas are intent on committing still another. They follow an elderly woman home, and Andreas enters her house with his ever-reliable switchblade. Motionless in the dark, Zipp waits for his friend to come out.

Inspector Konrad Sejer and his colleague Jacob Skarre see no connection between the infant's death and the reported disappearance of a local delinquent. And so while the confusion in the world outside mounts, the chilling, heart-stopping truth unfolds inside the old woman's home.

Unflappable as ever, Sejer digs below the surface of small-town tranquillity in an effort to understand how and why violence destroys everyday lives. Another brilliantly observed, precisely rendered psychological mystery from the highly acclaimed Karin Fossum.

Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
Andreas teams up with his socially inept friend, known as Zipp, to snatch a young mother's purse, harming her infant in the process, before they run off to break into the home of a reclusive old woman. Only Andreas manages to get into the house, and Fossum makes the odd choice of telegraphing much too early what eventually happens to him after he is trapped inside the home of this profoundly disturbed woman. Even with its suspense dissipated, the story is so chillingly told (in a lucid translation by Felicity David) that we can only marvel at the author's skill at illustrating how a random sequence of events can cause so many lives to intersect in so many horrifying ways.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Skillful characterization and revealing detail lift Fossum's third mystery to be published in the U.S. featuring thoughtful, intelligent Insp. Konrad Sejer (after 2005's He Who Fears the Wolf). Handsome Andreas Winther, a self-absorbed, dangerously restless 18-year-old, manages to draw both sympathy and disgust from the reader. He roams the streets of an unnamed provincial Norwegian town in the evenings, accompanied by his socially inept friend, Sivert "Zipp" Skorpe, and fueled by the enormity of a secret he keeps. One evening, after mugging a young mother, Andreas decides to break into an old woman's house to rob her. His intended victim, Irma Funder, has a complicated health situation and a more complicated psyche. In defending herself, Irma pushes Andreas down the cellar stairs, where he lands unnaturally twisted, unable to move but alive. What develops between the immobile boy and the reclusive woman is a bizarre, excruciating, curiously tender relationship that serves as a pathetic and poignant balance to the hunt for Andreas conducted by Sejer and his police colleague, Jacob Skarre. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Libary Journal
"This is not your usual police procedural -- Fossum's third Sejer novel ... is psyhcological suspense at its best." —Jo Ann Vicarel
New York Times
"[T]he story is so chillingly told that we can only marvel at the author's skill at illustrating how a random sequence of events can cause so many lives to intersect in so many horrifying ways."

Marilyn Stasio
Kirkus Reviews
"Fossum . . . writes like Ruth Rendell with the gloves off."
O Magazine
"Either somebody just slid an ice cube down your back or you're reading the opening pages of When the Devil Holds the Candle...a psychological tour de force."

Curled Up with a Good Book.com
"A stunning exploration of social isolation... Masterfully plotted."

"[I]t is an impossible book to put down, a psychological thriller that will haunt you long after the final page has been turned."

Bruce Tierney
Library Journal
Best friends Andreas and Zipp are 18 and cruise around town looking for beer, fun, and trouble. First they steal a wallet from a young mother whose baby carriage goes over a cliff during the mugging. After drinking that money away, the boys follow an old lady to her home. When Andreas's mother reports him missing, Inspector Konrad Sejer suspects something is terribly wrong. But this is not your usual police procedural-Fossum's third Sejer novel (after He Who Fears the Wolf) is psychological suspense at its best. Her dark story focuses on the dilemma facing those whose lives have come to a point where a decision must be made and a new direction taken. Several of Fossum's characters handle this conflict in distinctive ways. Not for the faint of heart, this book will satisfy patrons who cannot get enough of Minette Walters and Barbara Vine. [The Nordic crime wave continues with ke Edwardson's Never End, reviewed below.-Ed.] Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Read More

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Inspector Sejer Series , #3
Sold by:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Sales rank:
File size:
3 MB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter ­1
           The courthouse. September 4, 4 p.m.
           Jacob Skarre glanced at his watch. His shift was over. He slipped a book out of his jacket pocket and read the poem on the first page. It’s like virtual reality, he thought. Poof!—and you’re in a completely different landscape. The door to the corridor stood open, and suddenly he was aware that someone was watching him, someone just beyond the range of his excellent peripheral vision. A vibration, light as a feather, barely perceptible, finally reached him. He closed the ­book.
           “Can I help ­you?”
           The woman didn’t move, just stood there staring at him with an odd expression. Skarre looked at her tense face and thought she seemed familiar. She was no longer young, maybe about sixty, and wore a coat and dark boots. There was a scarf around her neck, just visible; he could see it above her collar. Its pattern offered a sharp contrast to what she most likely possessed in the way of speed and elegance: racehorses with jockeys in colorful silks against a dark blue background. She had a wide, heavy face, elongated by a prominent chin. Her eyebrows were dark and had grown almost together. She was clutching a handbag against her stomach. Most noticeable of all was her gaze. Her eyes were blazing in that pale face. They fixed him with a tremendous force. Then he remembered who she reminded him of. What an odd coincidence, he thought, as he waited for her to speak. He sat there as if riveted by the silence. Any minute now, she was going to say something ­momentous.
           “It has to do with a missing person,” she ­said.
            Her voice was rough. A rusty tool creaking into motion after long idleness. Behind her white forehead burned a fire. Skarre could see it flickering in her irises. He was trying not to make assumptions, but obviously she was possessed. Gradually it dawned on him what sort of person he was dealing with. In his mind he rehearsed the day’s reports, but he could not recall whether any patients had been listed as missing from the psychiatric institutes in the district. She was breathing heavily, as if it had cost her considerable effort to come here. But she had made up her mind, driven by something. Skarre wondered how she had got past the reception area and Mrs. Brenningen’s eagle ­eye.
           “Who is missing?” he asked in a friendly ­voice.
           She kept staring at him. He met her gaze with the same force, curious to see if she would flinch. Her expression turned to one of ­confusion.
           “I know where he ­is.”
           Skarre was startled. “You know where he is? So he’s not ­missing?”
           “He probably won’t live much longer,” she said. Her thin lips began to ­quiver.
           “Whom are we talking about?” Skarre said. He hazarded a guess: “Do you mean your ­husband?”
           “Yes. My ­husband.”
           She nodded resolutely, stood there, straight­-­backed and unmoving, her handbag still pressed to her stomach. Skarre leaned back in his ­chair.
           “Your husband is sick, and you’re worried about him. Is he ­old?”
           It was an inappropriate question. Life is life, as long as a person is alive and means something, maybe everything, to another human being. He immediately regretted having asked, picked up his pen from the desk, and began twirling it between his ­fingers.
           “He’s like a child,” she said ­sadly.
           He was surprised at her response. What was she talking about? The man was sick, possibly dying. And senile, it occurred to him. Regressing to his childhood. At the same time Skarre had a strange feeling that she was trying to tell him something else. Her coat was threadbare at the lapels, and the middle button had been sewn on rather badly, creating a fold in the fabric. Why am I noticing these things? he ­wondered.
           “Do you live far from here?” He glanced at his watch. Perhaps she could afford a ­taxi.
           She squared her shoulders. “Prins Oscars Gate 17.” She enunciated the street name with crisp consonants. “I didn’t mean to bother you,” she ­said.
           Skarre stood up. “Do you need help getting ­home?”
           She was still staring into his eyes. As if there were something she wanted to take away with her. A glow, a memory of something very much alive. Skarre had a weird sensation, the sort of thing that happens only rarely, when the body reacts instinctively. He lowered his gaze and saw that the short blond hairs on his arms were standing on end. At the same moment, the woman turned around and walked slowly to the door. She took short, awkward steps, as if she were trying to hide something. He went back to his chair. It was 4:03 p.m. For his own amusement, he scribbled a few notes on his ­pad.
           “A woman of about sixty arrives at the office at 4 p.m. She seems confused. Says her husband is missing, that he doesn’t have long to live. Wearing a brown coat with a blue scarf at her neck. Brown handbag, black boots. Possibly mentally ill. Left after a few minutes. Refused offer of help to get ­home.”
           He sat there, turning her visit over in his mind. She was probably just a lost soul; there were so many of them nowadays. After a while he folded the piece of paper and stuck it into his shirt pocket. The incident didn’t belong in his daily ­report.
Has anyone seen andreas? That was the headline in the town’s largest newspaper, set in bold type. That’s the way newspapers express themselves, using an informal tone to address us directly, as if we were on a first­-­name basis and have known each other a long time. We’re supposed to break down the barriers of formality and use a straightforward, youthful tone in this fresh, onward­-­storming society. So even though very few people actually knew him or used his first name, let’s just cut right to the chase and ask: Has anyone seen ­Andreas?
           And the picture of him. A nice­-­looking boy of eighteen, with a thin face and unruly hair. I say “nice­-­looking”; I’m generous enough to admit that. So handsome that things came easily to him. He strutted around with that handsome face and took things for granted. It’s a familiar pattern, but it does no one any good to look like that. Handsome in a timeless, classic way. A charming boy. It costs me a bit to use that word, but all the same . . . ­charming.
           On the afternoon of September 1, he left his house on Cappelens Gate. He said nothing about where he was off to. Where are you going? Out. That’s the kind of answer you give at that age. A sort of infinite guardedness. You think you’re so exceptional. And his mother didn’t have the sense to press him. Maybe she used his obstinacy as fuel for her martyrdom. Her son was growing away from her, and she hated it. But it’s really a matter of respect. She should have taught the boy always to reply in a polite and precise manner. I’m going out, well, with someone. We’re thinking of going into town. I’ll be home before midnight. Surely that’s not too much to ask, is it? But she had failed, as have so many others. That’s what happens when you invest all your energy in yourself, your own life, your own sorrow. I know what I’m talking about. And the sorrow was going to get worse. He never came ­home.
           Yes, I’ve seen Andreas. I can see him whenever I like. A lot of people are going to be surprised when he’s finally found. And of course they’ll speculate, they’ll guess, and write up reports, carry on discussions, and fill numerous files. Everyone with his own theory. And all wrong, of course. People howl with many voices. In the midst of that din I’ve lived in silence for almost sixty years. My name is Irma. Now I’m the one who’s doing the talking. I won’t take much time, and I’m not saying that I have a monopoly on the truth. But what you’re reading now is my ­version.

Copyright © J. W. Cappelens Forlag, A.S., 1998
English translation copyright © Felicity David, 2004
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at harcourt.com/contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department,
Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Read More

Meet the Author

KARIN FOSSUM is the author of the internationally successful Inspector Konrad Sejer crime series. Her recent honors include a Gumshoe Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for mystery/thriller. She lives in Norway.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >