The Murder of Harriet Krohn

Houghton Harcourt. Nov. 2014. 256p. tr. from Norwegian by James Anderson. ISBN 9780544273399. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780544272767. M
Charlo Torp doesn't mean to kill anyone. A widower desperate to pay off gambling debts, he intends to enter Harriet Krohn's house under the pretense of a flower delivery and steal the elderly woman's valuables. But Harriet resists, Charlo panics, and she ends up bludgeoned to death in her kitchen. With the whodunit thus settled two dozen pages in, Fossum trains her focus on the "why" of the crime, examining Charlo's guilt and how he justifies his actions to himself, especially after the stolen money helps him repair his relationship with an estranged daughter. Still, he constantly looks over his shoulder, and with good reason—the policeman investigating Harriet's death, Insp. Konrad Sejer, has never failed to solve a murder.
VERDICT Writing from the killer's perspective, Fossum sketches a credible if unsuspenseful portrait of how normal people commit violent acts. This is the seventh book in the "Sejer" series (The Water's Edge; Bad Intentions; The Caller) but one of the last to be translated into English, quite possibly because the detective doesn't appear until well past the halfway mark. That's too bad, because his scenes crackle with energy that's lacking in the rest of the book. For readers who enjoy psychological suspense and who don't mind crime novels minus the mystery.

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