cover image The Fifth Element

The Fifth Element

Jørgen Brekke, trans. from the Norwegian by Steven T. Murray. Minotaur, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-07391-4

Set in northern Norway around Trondheim, Brekke’s stellar third installment in his Odd Singsaker homicide detective series (after 2015’s Dreamless) is divided into four sections. Each part centers on one of the lead characters, and each is named for one of the Aristotelian elements—phlegm, black bile, blood, and yellow bile—once thought to ensure good health when in balance in the body. This narrative device is initially perplexing, but it all makes perfect sense in the end. Police inspector Singsaker, who’s on medical leave after being wounded in a previous case, is suffering from the postsurgical effects of a brain tumor that will eventually recur and kill him. His American wife, Felicia, vanished weeks earlier, and readers must assemble the puzzle of her fate piece by often gruesome piece, up to a shockingly ironic close. Violence seems to be rapidly getting worse in today’s relatively peaceful Norway, Singsaker concludes. For him, the horrors of this case—which involves drugs, extortion, and spousal abuse—outdo even the murderous exploits of the ancient Viking period. Agent: Nicole K. James, Chalberg & Sussman. (Feb.)