Things get out of hand and one event leads to another in an escalating psychological thriller. Fossum's story is more than a mystery; it is a look at society and how the issues of alienation, weakness, and boredom may play out in the real world. The main characters in the story lack a moral compass. But to Fossum it is more than a moral compass that is out of kilter. Evil is a real force. One of the characters recognizes this and understands.
"The hideous evil person you become when the Devil holds the candle".
Two friends, not quite adults, but living in the adult world, spend all their time together. One, Andreas is employed while the other, Zipp, seems to either spend his time with Andreas or at home. He doesn't have a job and appears not to be to concerned. The two of them stay outside of any other community even when they are someplace where others congregate. They wander about, trolling the streets, bored and looking for something to enliven their lives.
A encounter between the two of them in a darkened cemetery escalates their need to find something to eradicate that experience. They rob a woman who is wheeling a baby carriage. Yet it isn't simple because the mother runs after them and forgets to brake the carriage properly. The carriage rolls and the baby is thrown out. That fall will in time result in the baby's death.
Andreas and Zipp immediately head to a bar and spend the meager amount of money found in the wallet . Once having started down this path they crave more excitement. They frighten a young boy on his way home from school. They lose any sense of a moral compass when they are really tormenting this child. The child is the grandson of Inspector Sejer and this small incident will play a pivotal role in the book.
Evil has a way of becoming addictive. Andreas has a knife on him and he decides that they should rob an old woman. They follow her down darkened streets. Andreas goes into the house while Zipp waits outside. In an unexpected turn Andreas is hurt and the woman, Irma Finder, takes care of him. He is at the bottom of the basement stairs and is unable to move. Irma goes to the police, but her reportage is convoluted and it appears that she is talking about her husband who has been gone a bit over a decade.
Fossum gets inside her head and we watch and listen to her needs being addressed by sustaining Andrea’s life by feeding him water out of a baby's bottle. The Devil exerts its hold on Irma the same way it had a hold on Andreas and Zipp.
An additional, yet peripheral story, concerns Robert who shoots his girlfriend in the face because he wanted to keep his relationship with his girlfriend intact. He's someone who had felt alienated and this relationship is important and he feels that another boy is threatening it.
As a counterbalance to Inspector Sejer is his assistant, Jacob Skarre who says, "We encounter the Devil all the time. The question is how we handle him."
This a fascinating book with broader themes that have such relevance for our society. I'll certainly read more of Karen Fossum's books.