cover image The Whisperer

The Whisperer

Karin Fossum, trans. from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24 (336p) ISBN 978-1-328-61419-3

Fossum’s engrossing 13th Inspector Sejer mystery (after 2016’s Hell Fire) opens quietly, with Sejer interviewing Ragna Riegel, the whisperer of the title, who’s in police custody. Flashbacks tell the story of Ragna, whose vocal chords were damaged in an operation, causing her difficulty in speaking. She lives alone in the house she grew up in, works in a discount store, and has little social interaction outside work. She has a son (after a one-night stand), who has grown up and moved to Berlin, but the two have no relationship except for the occasional exchange of greeting cards. Ragna is virtually unseen and unheard—but not unhappy, until she finds an unsigned note in her mailbox that reads, “You are going to die.” It’s the first of several ominous messages that suggest she has committed a crime. Over the course of several interviews with a sympathetic Sejer, the nature of her crime eventually emerges. Fossum has rendered Ragna’s plight with great precision and empathy in this acute psychological study of loneliness and grief. Fans of more nuanced Scandinavian crime fiction will be rewarded. [em](Aug.) [/em]