The Drowned Boy
An Inspector Sejer Mystery #11
Translated from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson
Mariner Books, August 2016
From the publisher: Carmen and Nicolai failed to resuscitate their son, Tommy, after finding him drowning in their backyard pond. When Inspector Skarre arrives on the scene, Carmen reports that Tommy, a healthy toddler with Down’s syndrome, wandered into the garden while Nicolai was working in the basement and she was doing housework. Skarre senses something is off with Carmen’s story and consults his trusted colleague, the famed Inspector Sejer. An autopsy reveals Tommy’s lungs to be full of soap.
I will go no further with the material from the back of the book for fear of spoilers. But the ensuing tale, dark almost by definition as it deals with the death of a 16-month old child, is a wonderful psychological thriller such as we have come to expect from this author.
The child had just learned to walk. And he had certainly been a challenge to his parents, very young as they are: 19 and 20, respectively. DI Sejer, of the Sondre Buskerud Police District, has no proof, but his instincts tell him that there is something wrong with Carmen’s version of the events, and soon his younger colleague, Skarre, starts to feel the same way. What ensues is an intriguing tale, which begins in mid-August, ending in the summer of the following year.
Sejer, now 55 years old, has always been a fascinating protagonist. His beloved wife had died of liver cancer, and he has for company only his daughter, Ingrid, and his Chinese shar-pei dog, Frank Robert, who is almost as much a presence as the humans around him. Sejer has of late been troubled by dizzy spells, although he puts off having himself checked out until nearly the end of the book. The reader does not find out the truth about the child’s death until about the same time, in a not entirely unexpected, but still stunning ending. Well-written and with wonderful descriptions of the characters, both outwardly and with some insight into their inner selves, the novel is recommended.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, September 2016.