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Bad Intentions by Karin Fossum, translated by Charlotte Barslund

Source: Borrowed
Paperback, 184 pages
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Bad Intentions by Karin Fossum is the 9th book in the Inspector Konrad Sejer series and is set in Norway, but readers will get little sense of Norway other than the odd name here and there for places and people and the references to the bitter cold.  While Norway can be bitterly cold in the winter months, there has to be more to a country and its culture than that, but little of that comes across in this novel.  Additionally, the series stars Inspector Konrad Sejer, but readers will get little sense of him in this slim volume where he makes the rare appearance and the main focus of the book being on three young men — Jon, Reilly, and Axel.

“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 with two wolves baring their teeth.

Jon looked at the wolves and at his two friends.” (page 2)

Fossum has created a scenario that demonstrates the power that friends can have over one another, particularly when one of the friends is more dominant in the relationship than the others.  It is easier to agree to cover-up an accidental death than to call the emergency services, or is it.  These young men are like sketches of profiles that police would create following a crime, and while you uncover a little bit about their backgrounds and their pasts, you never really see them in full view, you cannot empathize with their decisions, and you cannot cheer for them to get away with their crimes.  The way in which Fossum has crafted these characters must be intentional, a cautionary tale against the pressures of friendship especially when it can lead to compromised principles.

“‘We’ve talked about the nature of truth before,’ he said.  ‘Many things are true, but they still need to be left alone.  Imaging if people always told the truth, it wouldn’t work.  Society would fall apart.  We need to start each day from scratch,’ he argued.  ‘Build something that people can see, that they can cope with and believe in.'” (page 10)

Bad Intentions by Karin Fossum could have been a stand alone novel without the inspector, as he plays a minimal role, but as it isn’t, the novel leaves readers with a desire for more — more characterization, so that the inspector and the young men become real.  Exploring the darker tendencies of peer pressure and how it tests our mettle when we are called upon to do what’s right is a tough subject to tackle.  Fossum explores a number of themes along this line, but with little background on the boys, it’s hard to keep up with their motivations.

***This experience hasn’t soured me on reading others in the series, but this one just fell short for me.

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 a small town in southeastern Norway.

3rd book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; this is set in Norway.