cover image The Fourth Man

The Fourth Man

K. O. Dahl, , trans. from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett. . St. Martin's Minotaur/Dunne, $22.95 (276pp) ISBN 978-0-312-37569-0

Little is as it seems in Norwegian author Dahl's U.S. debut, which features a tangled web of art theft, blackmail, torrid sex and double crosses. After femme fatale Elisabeth Faremo seduces Det. Insp. Frank Frølich of the Oslo police, Frank learns Elisabeth has a brother, the thug Jonny Faremo, and Elisabeth has used Frank as part of an alibi to help Jonny beat a murder rap. Later, Frank discovers that Elisabeth's female university mentor, Reidun Vestli, is also her lover. Reidun eventually turns up dead, as do Elisabeth and Jonny. Frank becomes a suspect in Jonny's death even as he begins to understand how an old robbery is connected to the murders. The entertaining if overstuffed plot is undermined at times by Frank's strange lack of reaction to Elisabeth's death and an unprofessional approach to forensic evidence relevant to the twist ending. Still, scenes like the one in which Frank finds himself locked in a sauna, doomed to become wrinkled to death, combined with the clinical style, make for an exciting read. (Mar.)