Karin Fossum, famous for her novels featuring Detective Inspector Sejer, has written a standalone thriller that defies any attempts to categorise it. It’s written from the point of view of Riktor, who shows enough self-awareness to pronounce himself a misfit in society both on account of his looks and his solitary nature. But Riktor has a dark secret. In the care home where he works, he secretly inflicts small daily tortures on his elderly patents for his own pleasure. His other recreation is spending time in a local park, watching with a wry eye the comings and goings of its regular visitors.
One day while out in the early morning, we watches a cross country skier accidentally drown in the lake, making no attempt to help the floundering man. He later befriends an alcoholic visitor to the park, enticing him to his house with offers of alcohol. When one of the elderly patients of his care home dies, Riktor is arrested by the police and charged with her murder. But Riktor, innocent of this crime, is now in a dilemma as he is guilty of something equally terrible.
This a bleak read but written with a deft touch that encourages the reader to stick with an unappealing central character. Riktor is repulsive with no redeeming features but Fossum manages to portray him in a way that we feel his sense of outrage when he is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. I never totally engaged with him as a character but this is almost certainly deliberate by Fossum. She encourages us to read the book as an outsider looking in which gives the narrative enough pull to make you want to reach the grim conclusion. There’s a bleak humour in the writing that gave I Can See in the Dark a unique feel and, although different from Fossum’s usual fare, I’m sure will still appeal to her fans.
Thanks to Harvill Secker for the review copy. The translation is by James Anderson.