“One of the standouts of the Nordic thriller boom.” — New York Magazine
“No one can thoroughly chill the blood the way Karin Fossum can.” — Los Angeles Times
“A truly great writer and explorer of the human mind.” — Jo Nesbø
“The queen of Norwegian crime fiction . . . Prolific and brilliant.” —Men’s Journal
Charlo Torp, a newly recovered gambler, makes his way through the slush to Harriet Krohn’s apartment, flowers in hand. Determined to pay off his debts, Charlo plans to steal the old woman’s antique silver collection. But he didn’t expect her to put up a fight. The following morning, Inspector Sejer is called to the scene to investigate. Harriet is dead, her silver missing, and the only clue in the apartment is an abandoned bouquet. When Charlo sees the news, he knows he should be relieved, but he’s heard of Sejer’s amazing record — the detective has solved every case he’s ever been assigned to.
Told through the eyes of a killer, The Murder of Harriet Krohn poses the question: How far would you go to turn your life around, and could you live with yourself afterward?
About 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.
Read an Excerpt
Do you read my letters? I hope so, but I don’t make any demands. I stay in the background. I’ve nothing to offer you and I know why you feel bitter. But I’m writing anyway — I am your father, after all. Writing has become a consolation. I find it soothing. You know how things stand, how I’m placed. Everyone’s after me because I’m in debt, and I feel like a hunted deer. I’ve no real friends anymore, only lukewarm acquaintances. Do you remember Bjørnar Lind? He was my best friend. We’d known each other since we were boys, and now he won’t have anything to do with me. I owe him two hundred thousand kroner, and I don’t know where I’m going to find that sort of money. I’m worried he’ll put people on to me, worried about what they’ll do if I can’t pay. There are rumors that he’s hiring someone to come after me. And you know what they do to people? They cut off their fingers with pruning shears. I feel ill just thinking about it. Daily life is difficult. The dole isn’t enough for necessities — it’s impossible to keep up with bills and repayments.
If only there was light at the end of the tunnel! It’s my fault all this has happened, and you mustn’t worry about it. Just look after yourself and be happy. Be young and fit and hopeful! But I am trying to deal with things in my own pathetic way. I have some initiative left even though I’m down on my knees. I’ve got plans. Dreams. I’m racking my brain frantically to find a solution. It spins and sifts and searches in all directions. When did we last see each another? It was on May 27, do you remember? We argued. I was simply trying to describe how compulsive gambling is. The thrill of it, the addiction. You slammed the car door behind you, and I thought, I’ll never see her again. No more chances for me. I drove home to Blomsgate with the feeling that I’d failed at everything. There must be a way out! Is it just that I can’t find it? I stare into the future until I can’t see anything anymore. I pace to and fro in the house. I chew my lips until they bleed. I often think of your mother with sadness and regret. All the things she had to put up with as a result of my obsession. It was so much easier then, as she took care of us and organized everything. She was a kind of corrective influence. I can’t grasp that she’s gone. Once a week I visit her grave. It’s so sad. Often I just want to fall to the ground, dig right down, lift off the lid, and take her back. Yesterday I bought a plant and placed it in front of her gravestone — an erica, the one with the mass of reddish-mauve flowers that can deal with almost any conditions, a bit like heather. I tend her grave, you know. I trim and weed and water. Sometimes I look for signs, to see if, perhaps, you’ve been hanging around there. Have you? Do you stand there crying all alone? I like the idea of acknowledging that death comes to everyone. Perhaps some just fade, sitting there withering away, like my mother. In my worst moments, I’ve viewed death as a way out. I’ve still got my father’s old revolver. Forgive this candor. You are not responsible for me. I won’t live to be very old. I’m so tired already. Just think, your grandmother is seventy-nine. But she just sits there immobile in her chair, only half alive. In a kind of slumber where nothing happens. But her features are still strong, like that prominent chin that you’ve inherited. As for me, I can’t disappear in a doze. Every cell within me vibrates. Blood courses around my body, my fingers quiver. At night I lie in the darkness listening. There are so many creaks and sighs in this old house that I don’t get much sleep. Is it them? I think. Has my final hour come? Today, I was at the Job Center, but nobody wants a middle-aged man. And I’ve no decent references, either. Nothing to show or boast about. Julie! I won’t give up, even if I’m driven to drastic measures. I’ve spent every minute of every day searching for a solution. It all hinges on money I haven’t got. Things I can’t afford, plans I can’t bring to fruition, debts I can’t pay. Fear and shame are everywhere — in the terror of each ring at the doorbell, and in the long hours until sleep arrives, bringing the only solace the day affords. Unless, that is, I dream of ruin. Life can’t go on like this. It’s sapping my strength too much. This constant fear, this thudding heart. My own miserable face in the mirror and the knowledge that I destroyed everything. Just because of a flaw. A penchant for gambling, chance, and luck.
I’m not asking you for forgiveness, only an iota of understanding. I’m on a different course now. Gambling is no longer a pleasure to me. I think I could walk past a fruit machine with my money safe in my pocket. But there’s something about those flashing lights, it’s a kind of intoxication. Time stands still in front of the machine, and I’m fully alive. I take possession of it, control it, challenge it. The machine greets me with its lights and music, draws me in, tempts me. And I surrender myself to it, float away, begin to dream. This may seem like weakness to you, but it’s only half the truth. If you only knew how desperate I am, how far I’m prepared to go for us to be in contact again. I’ve no one else but you. I feel I’ve been driven back to my last bastion and I don’t know how things will end. I’m friendless, jobless, and childless. No, not childless. I still cling to you, even though you don’t need me, don’t want me. Maybe you’ve seen me occasionally, sitting in the Honda outside your school, hidden among the vehicles in the parking lot. I watch you emerge from the building with a crowd of friends, and see you healthy and laughing and fooling around. I see your magnificent red hair, like a cloud around your face. Do I have any place at all in your life? I don’t know if I could bear it if you cut me adrift forever. To grow old alone with no ties to anyone. Of all the misfortunes that can befall us, loneliness is the worst. Not even having someone to weep with in this wretched world. You are the only thing I’m proud of in my life. But you look thin, Julie. Are you eating enough? You must wrap up better. It’s winter now. Mom would have said the same if she’d seen you with your neck bare. You always used to listen to her. Do you remember those happy days? When I still had my job at the car showroom. I was a good salesman, capable and reliable, and I remember the satisfaction of concluding each sale. The feeling of success, of being in the swing of things. Returning to you and Mom in the evenings, to the warmth and light. There’s no light anymore, so my life is disappearing. While I write, you feel so close. It’s as if I’m holding your hand, and I can’t bear to let go. Listen to me! Think of me, let me feel that I’m part of your life! Are things all right with your apartment and at school? I dream of making some difference to you, of giving what you want most of all. I don’t believe in miracles, but I believe one can change one’s own destiny. It’s just a matter of willpower and imagination. Of endurance and courage. I also believe it comes at a price. As things stand now, I’d give anything. I’ve nothing to lose. Dark, fearful days are all that lie before me.