Summary: Ten year old Ida Joner, a good-natured and happy Norwegian girl, gets onto her new yellow bike and heads for town. When she doesn’t return, Ida’s mother’s long-held suspicions that she will someday lose this too-good-to-be-true child seem to be confirmed. The girl is nowhere to be found. Suspicion immediately falls on local loner Emil Mork, whose mother insists on cleaning his house weekly, always afraid of what she may find. A mother’s worst nightmare in either case: to lose a child without reason or answer, or to think a child capable of murder. It falls to Inspectors Konrad Sejer and Jacob Skarre to unravel the truth behind Ida Joner’s disappearance.
Review: Black Seconds is the fifth book in Fossum’s Inspector Sejer mystery series, though like many similar series all of the books are intended to be friendly to new readers. Like many mysteries and thrillers from Scandinavia, the setting and writing evoke a certain bleakness. That aside, this is first and foremost a police procedural. The grisled and steely haired veteran Sejer and his partner the blonde curled youngster Skarre are practically ripped-from-the-pages genre-tropes, but strong writing and the unique rural Norwegian setting helps to make them fresh. Overall, this is a strong and atmospheric procedural, with the bleak setting lending a bit of grit to the tale.
Read-a-likes: Fans of Stieg Larsson’s tremendously popular series will find a different sort of thriller here. This is not an epic social commentary masquerading as a superb thriller, but, first and foremost, a police procedural. Reader’s that enjoy the Scandinavian setting will still find this rewarding, however, especially as it is well written. Readers mourning the recent passing of Robert B. Parker this past year or (reaching farther back) the loss of Ed McBain, will be rewarded for picking up this book. Though the setting is more rural, the bleak outlook lends it a more urban feel in keeping with those authors. And, of course, fans of other Nordic authors writing procedural (or semi-procedural) mysteries, such as Kjell Eriksson or Arnaldur Indridason, absolutely must pick up Fossum. The first book in the series, Don’t Look Back, is not currently owned by the library but is available via Interlibrary Loan.