Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

I Can See in the Dark

by Karin Fossum

Available 08/12/2014

What if you were arrested for a crime you didn’t commit—but had to prove your innocence without revealing anything about the crime that you did? A thrilling new stand-alone novel from Norway’s Queen of Crime, “a truly great writer.” (Jo Nesbo)

Format: Hardcover
ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780544114425
ISBN-10: 0544114426
Pages: 224
Publication Date: 08/12/2014
Carton Quantity: 12

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Riktor doesn’t like the way the policeman storms into his home without even knocking. He doesn’t like the arrogant way he walks around the house, taking note of its contents. The policeman doesn’t bother to explain why he’s there, and Riktor is too afraid to ask. He knows he’s guilty of a terrible crime and he’s sure the policeman has found him out.

But when the policeman finally does confront him, Riktor freezes. The man is arresting him for something totally unexpected. Riktor doesn’t have a clear conscience, but the crime he’s being accused of is one he certainly didn’t commit. Can he clear his name without further incriminating himself?

This is a gripping, mind-bending stand-alone novel from “a truly great writer” (Jo Nesbø).

Karin Fossum

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. Read More


1

There’s nothing beautiful about her, and she has no control. She can’t control her eyes, which dart around or roll up into her head, so that only the glistening whites are visible. Or her body, which does what it likes. Her skin is stretched tight over her joints, the veins giving her a greenish pallor, and she’s as thin as a small bird. Children shouldn’t look like this. Children should be plump, pink and warm, soft as rubber, and full of sparkling life. I assume her condition was caused by an injury during birth.

   She’s about nine or ten and confined to a wheelchair.

   Her mother calls her Miranda, a stupid name. Well, in my opinion anyway. Her hair is very fine and fair, and gathered in a knot at the top of her head. Her hands move around restlessly — white, claw-like hands that are incapable of doing anything. You’d think she was attached to an electric current. That someone was switching it on and off, sending shocks through her delicate body. I get very twitchy watching little Miranda. Worn out by all these spasms — this constant agitation — I feel like screaming. If she really were powered by electricity, I’d want to pull the plug. I’d enjoy seeing her jerking body relax.

   Miranda can’t speak. She only makes noises and unintelligible exclamations; I can’t understand any of it, even though I’ve had plenty of experience with all sorts of helplessness. I’ve worked in nursing homes for more than seventeen years.

   I often see Miranda here, because they come to the park by Lake Mester every day without fail. Like me, they follow a routine; they need something to cling to, a groove that feels safe. The young mother takes care of the little thing; she hasn’t any choice. One heady moment with a man has turned into a lifelong burden. If anyone else comes into the park, she glances up quickly, but without any anticipation of adventure. What kind of man would approach this pair and willingly take on these problems, the ever-present child, ceaselessly gesticulating and yammering all day long?

   Carrying the child around.

   Wheeling the child around.

   Never watching her run across the floor.

 

I go to the park at various times of the day because I work shifts, and I’m often free when others are at work. I’ve been coming here a long time, and I take note of all the other people who enjoy sitting on the benches admiring the fountain and its splashing water. The sound of the water has a strangely analgesic effect. For those of us who live with pain. I don’t sleep much, and the nights are long and agonizing. I try to maintain my grasp of reality; I don’t think people notice anything peculiar about me, either here in the park or where I work at Løkka Nursing Home. My manner is calm and friendly, and I do what I’m told; I simply mimic the others who stay within the norm. It’s easy. I talk like them, laugh like them, tell funny stories. But with all the feeble elderly people under my care, things often slide out of control. Especially for those who can’t speak, or haven’t the strength to complain.

   Maybe they think: I don’t want to live, but I don’t want to die. Life becomes so impossible as it nears its end. They just lie there clutching at a duvet, sightless, voiceless, and unable to hear. Without any desire for the dregs of life, and full of fear for death.

   I like sitting in the park and watching the people. They look so vulnerable on the green benches in the sun, with their eyes fixed on the lovely fountain. Three dolphins, each spouting a jet of water from its mouth. The park is small and pretty, quite intimate in its way, but the benches are hard and have armrests of cast iron. I almost envy Miranda her wheelchair and the pillow at her back. And the rug over her legs in the evenings, when it gets chilly. Her mother chain-smokes. She throws the butt on the ground and immediately lights another, inhaling so hard her cheeks are sucked in. She, too, is fettered to that chair with its large wheels. But there is something between them, I think, as I watch them surreptitiously. A frail bond, because it’s needful — they have to fulfill these roles, play this game, mother and child.

   Sometimes I go to the park and find it deserted, but I love sitting there alone on my green bench. The park is my own little kingdom then, and I’m in complete control. I’m responsible for everything. I make the water tinkle, I make the flowers bloom, and if I wish, I make the birds sing. I force the wind softly through the leaves; I chase the clouds across the sky. And if I’m in a good mood, I add a butterfly or a woolly bumblebee.

   I think about Miranda’s mother a lot. Occasionally she glances at me, entreatingly, like a beggar.

   Take me away from all these problems, the glance says. I want a different life.

   That’s what everyone wants, surely.

2

At the entrance to the park, just as you turn along a narrow, paved path, there is a beautiful sculpture. Woman Weeping.

   I’m not well traveled, but I’ve never seen anything like it — 

never seen anything so lovely and so riveting as this sculpture. I’ve never seen anyone cry the way she’s doing. She’s on her knees; she’s succumbed to it completely, weighed down with suffering and grief. Her hands hide her face, her long hair has fallen forward, and her shoulders are hunched in hopeless despair. It’s heartening that an artist has got to grips with the anguish we all feel. Our sorrow about life itself and the torment of existence, braving each of its seconds and minutes, tolerating the gaze of others. There are plenty of other wonderful sculptures. Beautiful women with outstretched arms; athletic men; chubby, laughing children.

   But give me Woman Weeping.

   Give me the truth about human beings and life.

   She’s cast from gilded bronze, which has a lovely luster. When the sun streams through the leaf canopy, she turns warm and golden like an ember. In winter her body is as cold as ice, with its round shoulders and the narrow back, through which vertebrae protrude like marbles beneath the skin. When no one is looking, I stroke her slender body, her long legs, her slim ankles.

   But my thoughts constantly return to Miranda.

   She needs help with everything all the time. I often think about that — help from morning to night, every hour, around the clock. Help when she’s thirty and when she’s forty. At some point, her mother won’t be there anymore, and who will look after her then? It’s just this sort of helpless case that ends up at the nursing home where I work, that ends up at Løkka. Then they’re handed over to me with all my quirks and fancies, my outbursts and attentions. Within me lurks an evil little devil who occasionally asserts himself. He’s impossible to avoid, because sometimes the temptation is too great. I’d never have believed it of Riktor, people would say in all their ignorant innocence, if they knew the truth about me and the things I’m capable of. I can see right through people. I can see what’s concealed in their innermost, shadowy recesses. And when it comes to evil, I can believe anything of anybody.



"Fossum vividly unpacks the mind of a troubled individual in this haunting psychological thriller written from the perspective of a sadistic nurse. Riktor is a fortysomething loner who readily confesses to having an “evil little devil” lurking within his placid exterior. When not working at a nursing home and abusing patients, he sits alone in a park coldly observing others while inwardly longing for affection. One day he reaches out to a fellow lost soul. Inevitably, things go wrong and the police come knocking. To his shock, Riktor is ¬arrested for a different transgression, a murder that he didn’t actually commit, forcing him to prove his innocence without revealing his guilt. The author refuses to cast blame for Riktor’s mental disorder on either society or his upbringing, presenting his squirmy delusions matter-of-factly while still managing to elicit a measure of compassion. VERDICT In this slim stand-alone, Fossum takes a chilling departure from her popular series featuring Norwegian police inspector Konrad Sejer. The results are a compelling—if unsettling—character study for fans of disturbing psychological suspense".--Library Journal

"Riktor, the narrator of this first-rate novel of suspense from Fossum (Broken), works in a nursing home in a small Norwegian town. In almost affectless prose, he describes his circumscribed life, both at the hospital and in his local park, where he observes Miranda, a wheelchair-bound girl; Miranda’s mother; teenage lovers Eddie and Janne; and town drunk Arnfinn. One day, he watches a cross-country skier fall through the ice of a nearby lake, then thrash around helplessly before sinking to his death. Riktor is filled with scorn and a quiet rage, which eventually grows to the point where he begins to abuse his elderly patients. The initially predictable plot takes an unexpected turn after Riktor is arrested for the death of Nelly Friis, one of his patients. “What a wasteland this world is,” the unlikable Riktor muses at one point in this bleak but clever and compelling standalone."--Publishers Weekly, STARRED

"In the tradition of Patricia Highsmith and Iain Banks, Fossum creates a creepily realistic sociopath, rolling his story out in a spare Scandinavian style that lends the book a classic horror feel. Riktor veils his constant analysis of prey beneath a cloak of outward kindness. Hiding behind this persona, Riktor watches for opportunities to indulge his secret game: torturing those he perceives as weak. He is in constant contact with weakness at his nursing job at Løkka nursing home, and he amuses himself by flushing patients’ food and medication, throwing in pinches and scratches for those too infirm to report him. Then a detective appears at Riktor’s home, invading Riktor’s tightly controlled environment and accusing him of killing one of the home’s patients. Riktor isn’t guilty of this one, but everything is connected, and proving his innocence could reveal the misdeeds Riktor has been careful to conceal. It’s not light reading to climb inside of a sociopath’s brain, but readers who can handle the darkest tales will be rewarded by Fossum’s streamlined, thoughtfully constructed story."--Booklist