Book Review: Bad Intentions by Karin Fossum

I have probably mentioned Karin Fossum about a bajillion times in my previous Friday Reads posts. She’s someone I bring up almost immediately whenever people start talking about Scandinavian Crime Writers. I vastly prefer her to you-know-who-with-his-dragon-tattoo. Plus I like spreading the love among all the others who are so good. Henning Mankell, Arnaldur Indridarson, Jo Nesbo, and more. I hate to see all the love go to just one writer, especially when the others are considerably better, in my humble opinion.

Karin Fossum has always been my favorite of the bunch.

Her new book, Bad Intentions, is out in the US this week. It’s not my favorite Fossum book. But that’s a really weird strength.

Hear me out:

I’ve had to give up on a lot of mystery/crime writers because they just keep writing the same thing (P. D. James) or they don’t seem to put much effort into their recent books (Ruth Rendell). Karin Fossum isn’t like that.

Her Inspector Sejer series has never had two similar books. They all involve different kinds of crimes and different perpetrators. They have different narrative styles. There isn’t much of a pattern between them except the presence of the melancholy detective and his young sidekick Skarre.

I’ve definitely seen a progression where Fossum has left behind the more typical procedural, where we follow the police through their investigation, to books that explore character and the repercussions of violent acts.

Bad Intentions begins with the abrupt suicide of a depressed man whose taken a break from his time in a mental hospital to spend a weekend with a couple of old friends. It’s clear right away that something isn’t right. The two remaining friends, Axel and Reilly, seem to know what their friend was so upset about and feel a need to cover up their tracks.

The gradual revelation of what the three friends did and how it affects them all differently is really interesting. The characters are well-drawn. In fact, Sejer fans will probably be a bit disappointed (I was) that Sejer himself is much more of a minor character here.

This progression in Fossum’s writing keeps me interested in what she’s doing and where she’s going next. (Her last book, Broken, was pretty experimental and rather similar in tone.)

If you haven’t read any Fossum before, I’d recommend starting with her earlier books. (Not all the Sejer books have been released in the US and the order can be a bit wonky but it shouldn’t cause you too many problems.) Start with Don’t Look Back and move forward in time. I know you’ll find each book enticing in its own way.

For the record, my favorite Fossum books are the ones in the middle, where there’s a lot of character study but still a good dose of Sejer. (The Indian Bride is one good example.)

Thanks to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an advance copy of Bad Intentions for this review.

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