Post Script: The Murder Of Harriet Krohn – Karin Fossum

Can you balance the scales or wipe out an evil act with good deeds?

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The Murder of Harriet Krohn

Karin Fossum

Translated by James Anderson

Harvill Secker

Random House

ISBN: 9781846557958

 

 

Description:

Charles Olav Torp has problems. He’s grieving for his late wife, he’s lost his job, and gambling debts have alienated him from his teenage daughter. Desperate, his solution is to rob an elderly woman of her money and silverware. But Harriet Krohn fights back, and Charlo loses control.

 

Wracked with guilt, Charlo attempts to rebuild his life and regain his dignity. But the police are catching up with him, and Inspector Konrad Sejer has never lost a case yet.

 

Through the eyes of a killer, The Murder of Harriet Krohn poses the question: how far would you go to turn your life around, and could you live with yourself afterwards?

 

 

My View:

 

Fossum poses a very interesting question in this psychological study when Sejer asks the suspect “What is a human being?” and he answers profoundly; “There are probably as many answers as there are human beings. And I hate all that guff about free will.” Sejer responds with equal insight, “Because you feel you haven’t got it. But many people would maintain that they do have it. You’re envious and so you dismiss the term” (p.275). This book is an interesting study about free choice, guilt and about how far an individual will go to change the circumstances of their life, a life where choices seem limited or non-existent. Can you wipe out one act of evilness with a lifetime of goodness? Can we re balance the scales?

 

This book is a little different to others I have read by Fossum – the narrative is told from the perspective of the villain, we see the wretchedness of his life, his illogical logic, his attempts to convince himself he had no choice but to commit this heinous crime and his efforts to lead a “good life” after the crime is committed. Inspector Sejer’s appearance is largely in the periphery – he is mentioned in the newspaper reports of the crime and it is not til the very end that he makes an entrance, in his usual calm and composed manner. We learn very little of how Sejer puts his case together – we know it is by solid police work and investigation, witness statements etc. but we are not privy to his thought processes.

 

This is a very unassuming book; not your average work of crime fiction, but them we know not to expect average from Ms Fossum. This narrative is told in a very slow and calm manner with a very deliberate and detailed look at a life less fortunate and the choices we may or may not have and the repercussions of those choices. A great psychological expose.

 

Post Script: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Claire North

Redhook Books

Redhook

ISBN: 9780316399616

 

Description:

Harry August is on his deathbed. Again.

No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes.

Until now.

As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. “I nearly missed you, Doctor August,” she says. “I need to send a message.”

This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.

 

 

My View:

I really enjoyed the premise of this book Harry August is born, lives and dies and is born again – this novel discusses the ageless questions about rebirth/literally being born again/the meaning of life and death… all questions I have posed myself at some point in my early life. On another level the discussion about responsibility for actions/war crimes/violence is prominently on the agenda and shouts “Stop blaming the victim.” This novel can open up a lot of frank discussions; hidden in this work of fiction are many opportunities for deep philosophical debates and that I applaud.

 

One of the most significant comments in this book comes from Sophia –a prostitute- when discussing with Harry the purpose of life she states: “You talk about decent people living decent lives, as if that doesn’t mean anything, like it’s not a big deal. But you listen – this ‘decent’, it is the only thing that matters…I don’t care if you cure ageing, or stop starvation or end nuclear wars, if you forget this – “ she rapped her knuckles against my forehead “-or this- “ pressed her palm against my chest “- because even then if you save everyone else, you’ll be dead inside. Men must be decent first and brilliant later, otherwise you are no helping people, just servicing the machine.” Amazing observations.

 

Again another point of ethics is brilliantly showcased in this narrative – the matter of torture, specifically Harry is being tortured for information re his birth details, and as the orchestrator of this atrocity leaves the room, he states this is all Harry’s fault, he says “Please don’t make me.” Harry replies, “I’m not making you…the decision is entirely yours. I’d just like to clear myself of any moral responsibility for that particular act before you do it.” So salient.

 

And the one luminous point this book shouts –one person can make a difference! I think we all need to be reminded of this now and then.

 

On a number of levels I really enjoyed the debate this narrative allowed however my interest purely as a reader was tested several times…at times the story is so repetitive my eyes glazed over…I was lost…I skipped over pages…I know this is the nature of this narrative, the repetition but I think it went on a little too long.