Book Review: Fossum goes inside a misanthropic misfit in I Can See in the Dark

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

book cover

The protagonist of Karin Fossum’s latest crime novel I Can See in the Dark is a cold fish. In fact, when Riktor was a child, his classmates called him Pike because he looked like a predatory fish with his jutting jaw and crooked, pointy teeth.

Riktor is a nurse in a hospital and works with the dying. He did not choose this profession for any noble reasons but because he is fascinated with death and enjoys watching people suffer and die. He feels no compassion for his patients. He actually revels in torturing them. He tears out their hair, digs his sharp fingernails into the skin behind their ears, and pokes things into their eyes. He even flushes their medications down the toilet. As the book is written in the first person, the reader is constantly inside the head of this dysfunctional individual and sees everything through his eyes.

As the story progresses, one keeps waiting for Riktor to commit a crime. It seems inevitable. And then he brutally murders an acquaintance who has made him angry. But shortly thereafter he is wrongly accused of murdering one of his hospital patients and is sent to prison to await trial. He spends several months in prison and, during his stay, he is a model prisoner. He is even allowed to work in the kitchen and seems to get along well with prison employees. His case finally goes to trial and he is declared innocent.

Riktor eventually goes home and, since he is no longer allowed to practice his nursing profession, he begins making plans for a new life. But then one day his nemesis Inspector Randers comes to pay him a visit. Will justice finally prevail? The reader must decide if justice does indeed triumph in the end.

Most Fossum fans will miss the very likeable Inspector Sejer who is the principal character in her other crime novels. Randers does not play a major role in this novel. He only appears a few times and does not seem to have anything in common with the intelligent and modest Sejer. He is very cocky and is not ashamed to admit it. He is also rather slow. He should have pinned the correct crime on Riktor much earlier on but his little gray cells were not functioning well.

This novel is not a police procedural and has little action. But Fossum is brilliant in creating a fascinating story in which she shows us how a misanthropic social misfit navigates his way through society. Even without the action, the book keeps the reader turning the pages, eager to see what is going to befall this contemptible but intriguing character.

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Christine Foster Meloni is professor emeritus at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, DC. She is interested in all things Norwegian.

This article originally appeared in the Aug. 15, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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