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I noticed this book came free with a recent issue of Psychologies magazine, and after checking the synopsis, decided it would be worth a read as I've recently started getting into crime novels.
Black Seconds was written by Karin Fossum and published in 2008. Prior to seeing this book for the first time, I had never heard of the author and so had no idea what to expect. I was quite surprised when I got home with the book and looked on the internet, because she's actually an award-winning author, often referred to as the 'Norwegian queen of crime'. As her alter-ego suggests, Fossum is Norwegian and so her works have been translated.
Fossum initially started out as a poet, then moved on to crime novels, with probably the most internationally successful publications being the Inspector Konrad Sejer novels. It seems that she has much experience of writing and of her chosen genre, and this knowledge shines through in the confident approach she takes with this book.
The tag line to Black Seconds is: 'When a child disappears, every second counts'. As you can guess from this, the story is based on the case of a missing child. Ida, a young, intelligent and confident little girl, sets off on her yellow bike to a local store to buy a magazine. Her mother, always weary of beautiful girl leaving the house, panics when Ida is even a few minutes later than usual returning. Her worry turns out to be warranted, as days later, there is still no sign of the girl or her bike. The search begins, and thought is put on the motivations of a possible abduction and murder.
Fossum brings to life a few key characters, including the young Ida and her mother Helga Joner. Helga's sister is a huge support to her during this crisis, and the strange coincidence of her own son's (Tomme) car accident the night Ida goes missing rings alarm bells straight away to the reader. We learn of Tomme, and his friendship with one boy in particular, as the story unfolds over the 272 pages.
Covering the case are two detective, Skarre and Sejer. They look at Tomme's accident but it doesn't seem to strike them that he could have hit the little girl and driven off because there's already a suspect or two in their radar. I don't want to give away what happens to Ida or who is held responsible, but within the detectives sight are a middle-aged man who prefers his own company and that of his parrot, and his mother, an old woman who continues to look after her son due to his isolation and apparently slow mental development.
Although I thought the ending was quite predictable, this didn't take away from the enjoyment of reading this novel. Fossum is gifted in her talents for describing and bringing to life her characters. Her method is simple and clear cut, and at first the short and incomplete sentences annoyed me slightly. After reading a few chapters, however, this simplicity builds the tension and visual imagery wonderfully.
Fossum shows great compassion towards her characters and the situation, and I felt completely drawn in to the scenes. I could easily imagine each character, empathise with their position, and and I found myself wanting to continue reading even though I had an inclination of the end result.
Overall, I would definitely recommend Black Seconds to those who enjoy crime novels, or those, like me, who are wanting a new genre to get stuck into. The storyline is clear-cut but detailed enough to make it interesting and Fossum's style of writing is wonderful. The characters and story are brought to live very easily, making this one of those 'unputdownable' reads. A well-polished, intriguing and well-written book that has sparked my interest in reading more of Fossum's work.
The RRP is £6.99, though it was recently free on Psychologies magazine and it may be worth checking your local library. Alternatively, Amazon sell this at £5.49.