Karin Fossum’s first novel in Her Inspector Sejer series, entitled EVA’S EYE is more than a murder mystery. In a sense it is a morality play as a young divorced woman who suffers from extreme poverty must make a number of choices that she hopes will better her life, her aged father, and her seven year old daughter.
The story opens in a Norwegian town as Eva Marie Magnus and her daughter Emma are sitting by a river contemplating the depths of the water and a possible visit to McDonalds. While chatting they notice a face floating in the water, then the entire body of a man comes to the surface. To Eva, it appears that the body has been in the water for a prolonged period of time. Instead of immediately calling the police, Eva dials her father. Shortly thereafter, a woman does phone the police and an officer is dispatched to the scene. The officer pulls the partially decomposed body from the water and Inspector Konrad Sejer takes over the crime scene as a man, Emil Einarsson, missing for over six months, seems to have turned up.
The investigation starts off simply with the widowed Inspector Sejer trying to unravel the case. Coincidentally, another murder had taken place a few days before Mr. Einarsson had disappeared. The core of the novel surrounds the exploration of Sejer’s lonely existence and how he tries to link the two murders, Einarsson, and a prostitute named Maja Durban. As he approaches the investigation, Sejer befriends the eight year old son of the murdered man, Jan Henry. As a character, Sejer appears as a very warm and sensitive person, not the somewhat typical wise cracking cop that often is presented in crime mysteries. Sejer cares for the boy and his own mother who is institutionalized with dementia.
Fossum does a wonderful job developing her characters, particularly the females. The reader is exposed to the world of prostitution, poverty, and the inability of people to overcome situations that they themselves have created. In addition, though a crime novel, Fossum lends insights into the lonely lives of the elderly and how they try to get by on a daily basis. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is how the protagonist tries to rationalize her decisions, which most would categorize as immoral, as a means of overcoming poverty and improving the lives of her family members. The story is told from the protagonist’s female perspective and is intriguing as the story evolves.
Fossum’s first Inspector Sejer novel is fast moving, even though whatever violence is present is subsumed to the moral dilemmas that constantly emerge. This is a very quick and captivating read, and I look forward to reading the second volume in Fossum’s Inspector Sejer series.