This is the first book in the popular Norwegian mystery series featuring Inspector Konrad Sejer.
As the story opens Eva Magnus and her seven-year-old daughter Emma spot a body floating in an Oslo river. Young Emma is fascinated, but Eva is horrified. To humor her daughter Eva agrees to phone the police from a nearby call box. Eva pretends to call the authorities but really phones her father and has a brief conversation about this and that. She then hustles Emma away.
Of course the police soon pull the man's body out of the water and identify it as Egil Einarsson, a local brewery worker who's been stabbed to death. Further inquiries reveal that Einarsson disappeared about six months ago, at about the same time a high-class prostitute named Maja Durban was murdered. Because the deaths occurred in the same general area Inspector Sejer thinks they're probably related.
Sejer interviews Einarsson's wife, who reports that her husband was a very ordinary fellow who - when not at the brewery - went to the Kings Arms pub with his friends or worked on his car in the garage. Sejer also speaks to Einarsson's six-year-old son, who was often an 'assistant mechanic' to his dad. I like that Sejer befriends the Einarsson boy, taking him for a ride in a police car and buying him a little child-size boiler suit.
Sejer also interviews Einarsson's friends and colleagues, and learns that - when he disappeared - the dead man was going to sell his treasured car. However, no one knows who the buyer was.
As it turns out Sejer has also interviewed Eva Magnus....months before. Eva and Maja (the dead prostitute) had been childhood friends who became reacquainted just before Maja was killed. Eva reported having dinner with her friend and briefly visiting her apartment - but said she knew nothing about Maja's death. Sejer is a little suspicious because Eva - a struggling artist who was always broke - has been a little flush lately. She even took Emma to McDonald's! (Wow! Ha ha ha.)
The story is told from two alternating points of views: Inspector Sejer and Eva Magnus. In the first half of the book we follow Sejer's investigations and learn about Eva's day to day activities. Sejer is an astute, determined detective who interviews witnesses again and again to eke out every little bit of information....and maybe trip them up. Eva is a divorcee who's oddly friendly with the ex-husband who ran out on her. She's also a painter with a unique vision and style - supported by government grants. We learn that Eva has struggled to pay bills, buy food, and slip her elderly dad a few extra kroner. She also worries about her daughter, a rather plain, chubby child who's scheduled to start school. This first part of the story is compelling and suspenseful.
The second half of the book details the events leading up the murders of Maja and Einarsson. This section of the story is very detailed and a little slow, but does elucidate how and why everything happened.....some of which is quite startling.
Overall, a good introduction to the Inspector Sejer mysteries.