Fossum, Karin. Bad Intentions

Harvill Secker, $32.95

The grim secret that Jon Moreno, Axel Frimann, and Phillip Reilly share is affecting each differently. For nearly a year, Jon’s nerves have deteriorated, and he has been hospitalised with anxiety. Phillip is seeking asylum in drugs. Only the slick advertising executive Axel seems unchanged by their prior misdeed.

Jon’s friends take him away for a weekend, to Dead Water Lake. This was a trip planned to raise their friend’s spirits, but it ends in tragedy. The three friends paddle out on the moonlit lake, but only Axel and Phillip return. They make a pact not to report Jon missing until morning, triggering an investigation which finds Jon’s body lying in the mud at the bottom of the lake; the survivors become the subject of police interest. When another body is found soon afterwards, Axel and Phillip become tangled in their own net of lies.

This is an effortless read, with a straightforward plot, crisp writing and Nordic-cool, albeit two-dimensional, characters. Although it strives to be, it never really becomes scary. Differing psychological and physical effects of guilt and grief are examined.

Bad Intentions is written by popular Norwegian crime writer Karin Fossum, and maintains a distinct Scandinavian sense of climate as well as place. If only the characters were sketched as effectively as the weather, this would make a clever, stylish read.


Reviewed August 2010