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Posted: March 31, 2024

An invitation that is impossible to deny

Book Review

By Derryll White

Fossum, Karin (2002).  Black Seconds.

‘Black Seconds’ is the definition of a suspense novel.  Karin Fossum builds the feeling of impending disaster from the first sentence – “The days went by so slowly.”  She builds everything slowly, and meticulously – the characters, the setting, the social connections.  This is Norway at its most noir depths.

The characters Fossum creates here are fascinating.  Emil Johannes Mork is 52, and essentially mute.  He lives alone, protected and cared for by his 73-year-old mother.  The story revolves around the disappearance of Ida Jones, almost 10.  She disappears very quickly and then maintains a strong presence throughout the story.  Inspector Konrad Sejer, aging, is the other major figure and a carry-over from several of Karin Fossum’s earlier novels.

The author never lets up on the feeling of impending doom.  Inspector Sejer is implacable, pursuing the truth steadily, without meanness or spite.  The various characters all experience moments of pressure, fear and release.  Karin Fossum does not back off.  Every character has secrets.  One by one they are explored, patiently.  The author brings real life to the page and invites the reader to become involved.  It is an invitation that is impossible to deny.

Fossum wraps everything up and even manages to inject a few small rays of sunshine and hope in what is a very dark psychological story.  She is indeed a very strong and important writer.


Excerpts from the novel:

GIRLS AND BOYS – “It’s a girl thing,” Skarre said.  “Girls like fussing.  They like caring for someone and feeling useful.  Boys are into other things.  Boys like stuff they can control.  Like cars.  Planning the design, constructing it, assembling it, influencing it and manipulating it.  Girls have different values; they invest in caring for someone.  And they’re less afraid of failure.”

TRUTH – When people tell the truth, the whole truth, the truth straight from their heart, a special light appears in their eyes, a glow of innocence that is mirrored in their voice, which in turn takes on a distinctive and sincere tone, a persuasive force it is quite simply impossible to ignore.  When people are scared the way Tomme was scared now, only the unadulterated truth can save them.  That is why truth will always out in the end.

– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them.  When not reading he writes history for the web at

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