The Caller, by Karin Fossum
It’s a mild and delightful summer evening in Norway. Lily and her husband are enjoying themselves over a relaxing meal, while outside, their little daughter sleeps blissfully in her pram under a maple tree - life is good. But when Lily steps outside, her heart nearly stops as she is overwhelmed by terror: her daughter is bathed in blood!
This is the chilling new case Norwegian crime fiction writer Karin Fossum has assigned inspector Konrad Sejer in The Caller, the tenth book in the Sejer series and the eight translated into English. Karin Fossum is a masterful psychological thriller writer, and in this book she skillfully builds an atmosphere that is dense and menacing – constantly feeding it, making us more and more certain that the situation will explode, and that the consequences will be extremely dire.
Inspector Sejer meets Lilly and her husband at the hospital. The child is unharmed: someone had sprayed the child with blood but not harmed it in any other way. The parents are shaken. A sinister prank; what kind of a person would do something like that!? Pondering over this in his home, the thoughtful inspector hears something outside his door. He finds a postcard in a small gray envelope. A postcard with a very disturbing and chilling message: “Hell begins now.”
The harbinger of hell is one Johnny Beskow. He is a small, skinny little fellow; a disgusting, evil guy who has very little going for him. He is more or less marginalized, living on the fringes of society, with his alcoholic mother. He is full of hatred; of everybody and everything, except possibly his grandfather, who is a kind and considerate man.
Johnny has plenty of time to plan and execute evil pranks, one after another. Pranks that terrorize, are sick, out of bounds, and make people fear for their safety. Like the old lady who reads her obituary in the paper or the dying man who receives a call from an undertaker. These are pranks that have serious consequences, pranks that affect people, that alter lives. More and more, the community feels that it is under assault, that bad things are happening, and that even worse things will follow. And of course they do - because Johnny is evil and bored and needs something to occupy his time, and evil is what he does best.
The Caller is a cleverly constructed thriller that penetrates deep into the mind of an evil perpetrator, while elegantly showing the consequences of evil for the victims. Karin Fossum builds great tension, makes us aware that an explosion is coming, but still manages to surprise us when she lets the evil loose.
Once again the sympathetic and thoughtful Inspector Konrad Sejer is faced with a very difficult case. I like him a lot; he is not a superhero – just a dedicated man doing his job in a very smart way. But in The Caller we know more than he does - as readers we are one step ahead of him. This creates an interesting second layer of tension in the novel: I found I wanted him to move faster, he made me impatient. Which I guess is mission accomplished for Fossum?
The Caller is an excellent psychological crime fiction novel, in my opinion one of Karin Fossum’s very best. It is a well crafted novel - suspenseful, penetrating, clever and thoroughly enjoyable. An excellent novel by the Queen of Norwegian crime fiction!
Praise for The Caller:
'Hardly anything beats a good, psychological thriller, and The Caller is an exquisite example of that.' –Dagbladet
'A new victory for Karin Fossum […] The quivering excitement takes off from page one.' – Dagsavisen
'The Caller is Karin Fossum’s best novel since The Indian Bride.' – Adresseavisen
Read more about Karin Fossum and reviews of her other books!