Book review: Busemannen’s humor is no red herring

John Erik Stacy
The Norwegian American

A murder mystery is a puzzle that can be solved. The suspects in the mystery must be introduced early and appear frequently. There should be at least one character that appears to be the culprit but turns out to be a false lead. At the “aha” moment should be surprise, but readers should also think, “all the clues were there; I should have seen it!”

Busemannen. A “påskenøtt” in the style of Jo Nesbø. Well, actually, a zany parody that reads so much like Nesbø you might forget in which universe you travel. Until the punch line.

In Busemannen (The Bogeyman) you meet Willy Wakum. He is an inexplicably brilliant detective often at odds with his superiors and in the doghouse relationship-wise. As dust-cover copy describes him «…alcoholic, argumentative, and a constant danger for himself and his surroundings. Besides that, he is dead. But he is the best the police have.» Sound familiar?

Willy is in charge of investigating what certainly will become a series of murders after Nelly Lundin, Norwegian murder-mystery author, is found choked by a force-fed frozen dinner. But Willy is not in charge, really. In fact, officially, he and partner Sana Selbu are investigating missing pets. Cats, dogs, and other cuddlies are disappearing from Oslo homes at an alarming rate. A department head has lost her standard poodle. And all five of the murdered Lundin’s cats (each named Henrik but with different last names) are missing. Important people, like the Minister of Justice, are also missing pets, so the pressure is on.

KRIPOS investigator Morten Vold, dashingly handsome but evil to the core, has the murder case. Officially. But Willy and Sana learn more about the killings (Willy corrects Morten for using the imprecise term murder during a press-conference and starts a debate among journalists) than Detective Vold would like them to know. Vold has his own agenda. One that involves Roma beggars and an upscale restaurant named Meoa (Meow!).

The plot thickens, twists, and coagulates as additional Norwegian mystery authors are found killed in gruesome and creative ways. True to formula, likely perpetrators rise to the surface only to be revealed as red herrings. And as the steel trap of irrefutable evidence closes around the true culprit, a final and surprising switch is made. I should have seen it. Perhaps.

A phalanx of no less than five authors collaborated to create Busemannen. These are Knut Nærum, flanked by Elisabeth Botterli, Peder Udnæs, Askild Hagen, and Jørgen Mehren. Nærum is a celebrity perhaps best known from his appearances in Nytt for Nytt from NRK television. Nærum describes Busemannen as being “Just like a real book, with jokes.” With chapter titles like Ear, Mucus, and Autophagy, the book is, to borrow a comment from one of its own characters, “A riveting read hampered by some passages that strain the reader’s credulity.” Except that straining credulity is kind of the point with Busemannen.

Busemannen is one of the few things not sold on Amazon.com. E-books (på norsk only!) are available at www.cappelendamm.no/_dokumentar/humor-og-satire/busemannen-knut-n%C3%A6rum-9788202435721.

This article originally appeared in the April 7, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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