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Black Seconds    by Karin Fossum order for
Black Seconds
by Karin Fossum
Order:  USA  Can
Harvill Secker, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

A sad sense of inevitability drives Black Seconds, Norwegian author Karin Fossum's masterfully plotted mystery about a little girl gone missing. This is an entry in her acclaimed Inspector Sejer series that has been translated into sixteen languages.

Inspector Konrad Sejer is a a clever and compassionate middle-aged policeman, who lives alone except for his elderly dog. There are hints of a romantic relationship with Sara, developed in the previous When the Devil Holds the Candle, but she is absent for this episode in the series. Sejer mentors and works closely with his younger 'keen and eager' colleague Jacob Skarre, who also has a flair for policing.

They're called in when almost-ten-year-old Ida Joner - a bright, precocious child who resembles Mary Pickford - goes missing after riding down the road on her brand-new bike to the kiosk to buy candy. Her mother Helga who, like all protective parents, has long imagined this possibility, is distraught, while her father joins a myriad of volunteers in long days of searching. But no one seems to have seen Ida. She didn't show up at the kiosk and her body is not found, though as the days pass, it seems a safe assumption that something very bad has happened to the child.

As the author meticulously lays out the police operation in progress, she also unveils intriguing subplots. One involves a middle-aged mentally impaired man, Emil Johannes Mork, who lives alone except for his parrot, Henry the Eighth. Emil cannot speak and his aging mother does what she can to look after him, visiting regularly to clean his house. Another subplot relates to Ida's cousin Tomme who focuses more on fixing the dent in his beloved car than on his small cousin's disappearance and who spends too much time (from his parents' perspective) with his unsavory friend Willy.

As the mystery developed, I had a good sense of where it was heading, but was absorbed by the credible details and by the decency and caring of the policemen involved. Even in such a disturbing case, it's a pleasure to spend time with Konrad Sejer and Jacob Skarre and I hope to do so again soon.

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