This week the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme is visiting the S Resort. We’re closing in on the last part of our journey too; only seven more stops after this one. Thanks to our tour leader Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, we’re all safe and everyone’s enjoying the scenery. Before we gather at the resort casino for a fun evening let me share my contribution for this stop: Karin Fossum’s Konrad Sejer.
Inspector Konrad Sejer lives and works in Oslo, but he frequently investigates cases that take place in the surrounding towns and villages. Sejer is a widower who’s rather set in his ways. He still misses his beloved wife Elise and thinks back fondly of their marriage. But he doesn’t wallow in grief or refuse to go on living. Here are his thoughts about it as we learn in Black Seconds:
“Nothing good ever came from prolonged mourning. It was merely exhausting.”
In the course of this series Sejer develops a new relationship with psychiatrist Sara Struel. Neither is obsessed with the other and that suits both of them, but they are an important part of each other’s lives. It’s also extremely refreshing that Sejer has a close relationship with his daughter Ingrid and his grandson Matteus, on whom he dotes.
Sejer is a cautious person by nature. He’s not inclined to act spontaneously and that quality is appealing. He has learned that sometimes good people do bad things. For instance in Don’t Look Back, he and his assistant Jacob Skarre investigate the murder of fifteen-year-old Annie Holland, whose body is found near a local tarn. For a very long time no-one can imagine a logical reason why anyone would want to kill her. She was well-liked, capable, and personable although not what you would call overly outgoing. No-one seemed to have a grudge against her either. It’s not long before suspicions begin to focus on Raymond Låke, who found the body. Låke has never expressed any dislike for Annie but he has intellectual challenges and it’s not hard for people to imagine that he could have killed the victim without really doing maliciously. Sejer is too cautious to jump to that conclusion and he and Skarre investigate thoroughly the people whose lives most frequently touched Annie’s. That’s how Sejer discovers that Annie’s death has everything to do with another, older tragedy in the village. It’s also how he discovers that someone can take a life without it meaning that the killer is an evil person.
Sejer’s treatment of local suspicions about Raymond Låke shows another appealing side of his character: he doesn’t make very many assumptions about people. We see that for instance in He Who Fears the Wolf. In that novel, Halldis Horn is murdered just outside her somewhat remote home. The most likely suspect is Errki Johrma, a mentally ill young man who was actually in the area at the time of the murder. He’s disappeared though, so the police can’t interview him. Sejer isn’t convinced that Johrma is the killer – at least not without more concrete evidence than the police have at first. And he’s certainly not willing to assume Johrma’s guilt without even talking to the young man. Then Morten Garpe, who calls himself Morgan, robs a bank and takes a hostage. So Sejer has to divide his resources so to speak. In the end he’s able to find the link that ties the cases together (for they are related). His approach to solving these cases shows that he doesn’t make assumptions about anyone before he really knows the facts.
The way in which Sejer deals with the real killer of Halldis Horn also shows his capacity for compassion. Of course he wants to catch the “bad guys” and of course he doesn’t want murders to go unsolved. But Sejer is well aware of the fact that very often solving a murder and arresting the killer isn’t as simple as it may seem on the surface. He does want what most people think of as justice, but he also sees many different sides of cases. For instance, in When the Devil Holds the Candle, he and Skarre investigate a purse-snatching, an incident of racism and a young man who’s disappeared. All of these events are related in tragic ways and when Sejer gets to the bottom of the matter he finds that none of the characters involved in them are purely right or wrong. In fact his awareness of that fact is part of the reason for which he finds out the truth.
But make no mistake; Konrad Sejer is neither gullible nor easily intimidated. In When the Devil Holds the Candle he is both tenacious and savvy as he interviews Sivert “Zipp” Skorpe, a young man who seems to be the key to all of the incidents Sejer is investigating. Zipp has several reasons for not being frank with Sejer about everything that happened on the day that is the focus of this story. He’s smart and shrewd too and absolutely determined to keep his mouth shut. But Sejer keeps at it and demonstrates that he is not going to back down. In the end, his refusal to accept what Zipp says at face value helps him get at the truth.
Konrad Sejer is as I mentioned a cautious, thoughtful person. But that doesn’t mean he’s really stodgy. He even goes skydiving once in a while. In fact in He Who Fears the Wolf he bets Jacob Skarre a skydive against a night of drinking at the Kings Arms that Errki Johrma isn’t guilty of murdering Hallis. The two of them needle each other more than once about their bet as the novel goes on. Of course, telling you which one wins would be a spoiler so I won’t. But the sub-plot about the bet shows that Sejer has a sense of humour and that he’s not completely strait-laced.
Konrad Sejer is an insightful and tenacious cop. He thinks carefully, doesn’t rush to judgement and has a way of treating witnesses, suspects and even confessed killers as human beings. And he has healthy relationships. Little wonder he’s a well-liked sleuth. I’m not entirely sure I’d go skydiving with him though…