The Caller: An Inspector Sejer Mystery

Houghton Harcourt. Aug. 2012. c.256p. tr. from Norwegian by K.E. Semmel. ISBN 9780547577524. $25. M
A most unusual villain terrorizes a quiet Norwegian community by preying on people's worst fears: dousing an unattended infant in animal blood while her unknowing parents sit nearby; ordering a newspaper death notice for a senior citizen who is very much alive; crank-calling a mother and telling her that her daughter is in a hospital emergency room. Although physically unscathed, the victims and their families struggle with the psychological wounds left by these incidents. The typically calm Insp. Konrad Sejer is also unsettled, both by a spate of dizzy spells and by an ominous note left at his door: "Hell begins now." But when the "pranks" take a lethal turn, the tragedy is worse than anything he could have expected.
VERDICT Fossum is back on track with her eighth Sejer mystery (after 2011's underwhelming Bad Intentions). Getting into the heads of the detectives, victims, and perpetrator, she offers a chilling morality play reminiscent of Ruth Rendell or even Patricia Highsmith. Good stuff for admirers of the clever and creepy. [See Prepub Alert, 2/12/12.]

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