Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Drowned Boy

The Drowned Boy by Karin Fossum
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 8/25/15
eBook review copy, 240 pages
ISBN-13: 9780544483965

The Drowned Boy by Karin Fossum is a highly recommended eleventh book in the Norwegian police procedural featuring Inspectors Konrad Sejer and Jakob Skarre.  Be forewarned that the novel opens with a very graphic description of what happens when someone drowns.

Tommy Brandt, a healthy 16-month-old boy with Down syndrome, is found drowned in the pond behind his parent's house. Carmen Zita, Tommy's mother, claims he wandered outside when she was cleaning, or in the bathroom washing out some clothes. She had left the back door open because it was so hot and Tommy must have walked down to the pond and fell in. His father, Nicolai Brandt, was in the basement fixing a bicycle. He rushed outside when he heard Carmen yelling, after she found Tommy, but it was too late.

The problem is that something is not quite right about Carmen's behavior. She's crying, but it also appears to be an act rather than true mourning. The boy's father is seriously grieving and never considered a suspect. The two present a stark contrast in their different behavior. The drowning may be an accident, as Carmen claims,  but she seems to be having a hard time remembering exactly what she was doing when Tommy would have wandered down to the pond and drowned. She also seems very eager to pack up and move out all of Tommy's things.

Carmen's story changes after the autopsy. The inspectors are even more suspicious, but have nothing to definitively prove Carmen is lying. Complicating the interpersonal dynamics is Papa Zita, Carmen's father. Carmen's a daddy's girl, and her father is right there, supporting her every statement as fact and trying to help. Papa Zita owns a fast food restaurant where Nicolai and Carmen both work.

The writing in this series is very much to the point and concise. There is not a lot of extra verbiage and descriptions beyond just what is needed to propel the story forward. It should also be noted that The Drowned Boy is more psychological study than a police procedural. Carmen's odd behavior will stand out in stark contrast to Nicolai's grief. She is determined to move on, maybe have another child, while Nicolai is completely overwhelmed with grief. The incongruity between the two is startling. When the question is raised if it would have been better for Carmen to have aborted Tommy, she thinks it would have been better while Nicolai most decidedly says no. (Those following the series will also be concerned about Sejer's recent dizzy spells and his reluctance to go to the doctor.)

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for review purposes.

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