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The Caller: An Inspector Sejer Mystery [Hardcover]

Karin Fossum , Kyle Semmell
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 14 2012 Inspector Sejer Mysteries
After a cruel prank is played in the peaceful town of Bjerkas, Inspector Sejer receives a postcard with this message: Hell begins now.

There's someone out to cause havoc in the lives of the residents of this quiet suburb. An elderly woman opens the newspaper and see her own obituary; a terminally ill patient watches a hearse pull up outside his house; a mother, informed that her child has been in a car accident, arrives at the emergency room to find it's not true. Sejer and Skarre are called to investigate. They have an idea or two about the perpetrator: probably a man, between the ages of seventeen and sixty, neglected and invisible, creative, bitter, full of hate. Someone who has been abused and ignored, and is now tormenting others. Someone who stages dramas, who wants attention. And he's getting it the newspaper headlines are full of nicknames and capital letters: "The Beast from Bjerkas", "The Butcher from Askeland", "Grotesque Joke in Bjerketun." The pranks, though mean, are harmless. But what if the prankster goes too far?

Classic Fossum and acclaimed by the Norwegian press as her best book since The Indian Bride.


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Review

"Fossum is admired by Ruth Rendell and you can see why'" Daily Mail "A contemporary Patricia Highsmith, her offbeat obsession with the psychology of the criminal mind, and the human cost of criminal activity, pays off handsomely yet again" Irish Times "It is a sign of Fossum's sophistication that the reader comes to empathise with the teenaged tormentor - a deliberate ploy which makes the double-twist ending all the more shocking" Sunday Telegraph "Fossum's Norway is an apposite setting for a long dark night of the soul" Independent "With a focus on characters and the impacts of crime, Fossum's psychological thrillers will appeal, in particular, to fans of Anne Holt and Henning Mankell" Booklist

About the Author

 KARIN FOSSUM is the author of the internationally successful Inspector Konrad Sejer crime series. Her recent honors include a Gumshoe Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for mystery/thriller. She lives in a small town in southeastern Norway.




Kyle Semmel is a contributor for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishers as a translator, titles including: The Caller.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weirdly good Nov. 22 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was the first Karin Fossum book I had read so I was really delighted that it entertained me with insightful psychology of a deviant mind and yet really really creepy at the same time.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Caller Nov. 14 2011
By Ted Feit TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Lucy thought she had everything a woman could want [and who could disagree]: youth, beauty, health, a loving husband, and a baby girl they both doted upon. Until the warm summer day when evil is suddenly visited upon her perfect life in the form of an unknown monster, for when Lily approaches the pram under the maple tree outside their house where the baby had lain sleeping, she discovers that the baby is covered in blood. In their terror and panic, they rush to the hospital, where they are soon told that the baby is unharmed, that the blood was not hers, and that the police have been called. The Inspectors assigned to the case are Konrad Sejer and Jacob Skarre. Later that same night, a postcard is delivered to Sejer's door reading 'Hell begins now.'

Happy people content with their lives, suddenly made anxious, unable any longer to feel secure, as 'a soundless form of terror' and utter vulnerability spreads through the community. This is the story line of this newest in the Inspector Sejer Mysteries. And a gripping, albeit somewhat depressing, tale it is, with a perpetrator who fancies himself as invincible, with unimaginable cruelty and an almost equally twisted quirk: He needs to see for himself the effects of his pranks: 'Everyone lives on an edge, he thought, and I will push them over.'

The writing is wonderful, as one has come to expect of this author. She describes Sejer's dog as follows: 'a Chinese Shar Pei called Frank, lay at his feet, and was, like most Chinese, dignified, unapproachable and patient. Frank had tiny, closed ears ' and thus bad hearing ' and a mass of grey, wrinkled skin that made him look like a chamois cloth,' and someone's 'cat [which] slept in a corner, fat and striped like a mackerel.' The humans are just as well-drawn.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing April 23 2014
By the wiz
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The conclusion of the story is so unrelated to the majority of the build-up - is it likely that a ten year old girl could or would plan such a bizarre revenge on someone she only knew at a distance. If Karin Fossum thought she was diverting the reader with a series of pranks, she might have delved deeper and provided a more believable basis for the conclusion.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  117 reviews
69 of 76 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Back on track Sept. 24 2011
By Stephen McHenry - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
My wife and I are both Karin Fossum fans and both felt she had dropped a bit with the last few books but with The Caller she is back on track and in Fossum form. If you have not read any of the work of this author, who is listed as one of the top 50 greatest crime writers by the British newspaper The Times, then start with The Indian Bride. If you are a Fossum fan already this will be a welcome read in the Inspector Sejer series. Fossum is strong on drawing characters and their lives and in this book she is working how lives can become tragically affected by incidents that are seemingly minor. Or so it begins. There is a Fossum-style twist ending; altogether a satisfying read for a Fossum fan. If you haven't sampled her before don't start with this one, start with Don't Look Back, or When the Devil Holds the Candle, or my favorite The Indian Bride. this particular book is a 2011 edition from a British publisher: I have seen in the past some of her books are then translated again into American English and published state-side, sometimes with a different title(.
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unsettling psychological thriller July 11 2012
By Z Hayes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I am an ardent admirer of Karin Fossum's works, and my favorite is The Indian Bride (Inspector Sejer Mysteries). When I saw The Caller, I could not resist picking it as a Vine selection. The Caller is part of Fossum's Inspector Sejer Mysteries, but Sejer does not figure quite as prominently in this novel as he does in many of the other books.

From the beginning, readers are made aware of the antagonist in this novel. Johnny Beskow is a troubled 17-year-old unemployed youth who lives with his alcoholic mother in the housing project of Askeland, a neighborhood that is pictured as bleak and unwelcoming. Johnny's anger at his neglect and abuse by his mother is contained within his troubled mind, imagining all sorts of horrors he'd like to inflict upon a woman he nicknames "the hyena". The only person Johnny seems able to truly care for and connect with is his aging, sickly grandfather, Henry Beskow, who lives in a different area. Johnny visits this old man regularly and sees to Henry's comfort, relishing being needed.

Unfortunately, Johnny's inner rage finds a target in an unhealthy pursuit of playing pranks on unsuspecting innocent people - a young family; an elderly woman; a dying man and his wife; etc. Soon, the entire area is abuzz with news of this prankster, and Insp. Sejer and his assistant Jacob Skarre try to piece together the puzzle hoping to find the identity of the prankster before things go too far as they inevitably do.

I found this story riveting because it explores the psyche of a troubled, neglected teen and how this in turn takes form in little acts of malice that eventually becomes something so much bigger and terrifying, disrupting and destroying the lives of his victims, perhaps forever. It was an unsettling read for me because it is altogether credibly portrayed. It also addresses the very real fear that many possess, of how easily one's security and feeling of well-being can come under threat, and that nothing can ever be taken for granted. The Caller is one of the most disturbing of Fossum's works, together with The Water's Edge.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A One Day read Aug. 16 2012
By BGRT - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Started at 9 ended at 9. Couldn't put it down. You will end up talking to yourself.

Characters are very well developed but what got me most was the randomness of the evil on a lark and the repercussions it causes over time. No one is safe from life. Some of the scenes are truly heart rending and evoke strong emotions. Rather like the butterfly effect, you never know the ramifications of acts. I particularly liked the last two pages that just faded and left you to ponder... Is there really any justice, fairness or forgiveness? There certainly is no security (or a benevolent, loving god). Powerful writing.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Psychological Terrorism in Norway Aug. 1 2012
By Cheddie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
While "The Caller" is an Inspector Sejer mystery, Johnny Beskow might be considered a co-main character. "A slight figure with a talent for mischief," young Johnny engages in an escalating series of awful psychological attacks through the course of the book. While Lily and Karsten are indoors, their baby Margrete sleeps innocently outdoors in her carriage, when Johnny begins his campaign of terror by soaking her in blood, terrifying and permanently shattering her parents' peace of mind.

Fossum writes in an easy, flowing narrative, smartly building the mystery's tension to its dramatic conclusion. She effortless weaves three story strands together: Johnny's viewpoint, often set at home where he lives with his alcoholic mother, typically asleep in a drunken stupor; a peek into the victims' lives, so we can see the emotional trauma Johnny causes; and the track of the investigation pursued by Sejer and his partner Skarre.

It's my second Fossum Sejer book, and the inspector remains a sketchy presence for me, although readers of this book will learn a bit about his home life, his own fears of aging (many of Johnny's victims are elderly), and his family, principally his grandson Matteus, a dancer. But readers get more of Johnny: his torture at never having known his father, his hateful relationship with his mother, and a surprisingly tender, caring relationship with his aging and ill grandfather, Henry.

As Johnny's cruel pranks continue unsolved, he becomes "invincible. I'm faster. I'm Johnny Beskow. They can't even catch me in dreams." But Johnny's mother figuratively knocks over a series of narrative dominoes that fall to a horrible ending that even he can't foresee when she kills his pet guinea pig, saying "I can't have little rats running around the house" and he sadistically responds by concocting a plan to kill her with rat poison.

Fossum very cleverly ties up every loose end in a quite well-constructed finish. Some sharp mystery fans may anticipate her conclusion, but that won't make the book any less satisfying. She's been described as a great "psychological" writer, and that's truly the pleasure of this book. While the plot jumps forward with momentum, it's less the actions and more the human consequences of them that grip and capture you in this fine read.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "In cruelty will I seek out my fame." July 9 2012
By Leonard Fleisig - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
So says Clifford in Henry VI, part 2. And, like Clifford, young Johnny Beskow, has decided he will seek fame in cruelty. Karin Fossum's latest book, The Caller, begins with a cruel joke. It is a joke sufficiently cruel that Inspector Sejer treats it as one suitable for a criminal investigation. Sejer's investigation into the initial `joke' and subsequent similar incidents form the narrative core of the book.

The Caller is not a mystery in the sense that the protagonist's identity is known from the start. But Fossum's story-telling is very well done. As the story unfolds Beskow's back-story is interlaced with narrative tracing the progress of the investigation. The book is dark but not depressingly so. And, although, the identity of the perpetrator is known, Fossum manages to spring a few twists and turns that totally caught me by surprise.

This is my first book by Fossum and, naturally, my first Inspector Sejer story. It will not be my last. I've been a fan of Scandinavian mysteries for quite some time and I'm not quite sure how I missed it until now. For readers new to Fossum, I think that if you like Henning Mankel's Inspector Wallander books and/or Sjowall & Wahloo's Inspector Beck series you will enjoy Fossum's books. Although there is a series of Inspector Sejer stories I did not get the impression that my enjoyment was hindered by not having read earlier works in the series. It is clear from a few references for example that Sejer, like Wallander in Mankel's later stories, is aging. I think reading the stories might enhance ones enjoyment of this book but, again, I think The Caller stands up pretty well on its own.

After reading The Caller I will not hesitate to pick up another book by Fossum.

L. Fleisig
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