The Whisperer by Karin Fossum

The WhispererBook review

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

Karin Fossum continues to deserve the title of Norway’s Queen of Crime. Her latest novel, The Whisperer, is a riveting read.

As usual, she reveals the perpetrator at the outset, although the details of the crime are not revealed until near the end. Why then is the reader interested in reading on? Where is the satisfying conclusion that finally identifies the culprit?

In her novels, Fossum focuses primarily on the perpetrator, who is not a bad person but feels compelled to commit a crime. She gradually reveals the circumstances that lead up to the criminal act, and, in doing so, she frequently evokes sympathy for this unfortunate person.

The protagonist in The Whisperer is a woman named Ragna. At the very beginning, we can see her vividly in our mind’s eye. She is described as someone who is not beautiful and is very aware of this. Therefore, she tries very hard to be as inconspicuous as possible, so that she will not be noticed. She becomes even more withdrawn after an operation damages her throat muscles, so that she can only whisper.

In the first scene, Ragna is in prison, where she is being interviewed by Konrad Sejer, Fossum’s intelligent and sensitive inspector. The novel proceeds with chapters alternating between the present, as Sejer patiently interacts with her to try to discover why she committed the crime, and the past, as the key events leading up to the crime are gradually revealed.

Fossum immediately stimulates the curiosity of the reader. Who was Ragna’s victim? Why did she harm this particular person?  And what was the crime? The reader soon learns that, whatever she did, it was unspeakably horrible. Could this shy, unassuming woman do anything violent? Is she really guilty?

The path to Ragna’s undoing begins when she discovers threatening notes in her mailbox. Who is threatening her and why? What has she ever done to harm anyone or to make anyone angry with her? She becomes more fearful and disturbed as she tries to find out. She becomes confused, as she no longer knows whom to trust. Is her tormentor someone she knows?  Could it be her estranged son, a neighbor, a colleague or a complete stranger? She is completely baffled.

Fossum creates an electrifying mood of suspense that keeps the reader guessing. This novel is definitely a must-read for fans of Karin Fossum and of Norwegian noir. The Norwegians continue to produce crime novels that are exciting and psychologically intense.

The Whisperer is the 13th book in the Inspector Sejer series and is available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle formats from major booksellers. Fossum has also written two standalone novels.

This article originally appeared in the October 4, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Christine Foster Meloni

Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita 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, D.C. She values her Norwegian heritage.