Sunday, January 8, 2017
Review of "I Can See in the Dark" by Karin Fossum
The main character in this Norwegian novel is Riktor, who works as a male nurse in a facility that houses elderly and chronically ill patients. Riktor is a sadistic psychopath who mistreats his charges, flushes their food and pills down the toilet, and injects their medicine into the mattress. He especially enjoys torturing an elderly, helpless woman named Nelly Friis. When Riktor's alone with Nelly he pinches her and pulls out her hair, being careful not to leave obvious damage. Riktor, physically unattractive with odd pointy teeth, constantly bemoans the fact that he doesn't have a woman and has a crush on his fellow nursing home employee, Sister Anna.
In his off time Riktor enjoys sitting in a local park observing the people on the benches nearby, including a mother and her disabled daughter; an old woman who crochets; a big, strong refugee who can't get work; and an elderly, stumbling alcoholic. The alcoholic, named Arnfinn, accidently leaves his flask behind one day and Riktor takes it, eventually using it to forge an unlikely comradeship with the old man.
As events proceed Riktor commits a terrible crime, after which he's on tenterhooks - fearing the appearance of the police at his door. The police show up soon enough, but instead of charging him with the crime he committed they accuse Riktor of killing Nelly Friis, which he didn't do. Riktor is remanded to await trial and continually frets and fumes over the injustice perpetrated on him. Riktor has some ironic encounters in jail, goes to trial, and that's all that can be said without risking spoilers.
One thing that struck me while reading the book is now nice the Norwegian prison seems to be. Riktor has a nice view from his cell and the prison cook apparently prepares gourmet meals for the inmates. I don't know how realistic this is but it seems much different than American prisons (as seen on TV).
The book has a fairly large array of characters but we get to know very little about each one. The story concentrates heavily on Riktor, who's a despicable man, hard to read about without cringing. I thought the story was interesting in it's depiction of a disturbed personality with a skewed view of reality but I can't say I really enjoyed the book. Still, I'd probably try another book by this author.