Minotaur Books: The Bitterroots by CJ Box

The Whisperer

This time around, Inspector Sejer has a challenge both intellectual and practical. As The Whisperer begins, the Norwegian detective is interrogating 40-something Ragna Riegel, who, during a standard medical procedure a few years earlier, suffered permanent damage to her vocal cords; now her voice can't go above a whisper. As a result, Sejer isn't having the easiest time hearing what she says.

Chapters toggle between their conversations, which the introspective Sejer leads with the gentle touch of a therapist, and sections from Ragna's perspective that show how this hubbub-averse shop assistant at a Europris store came to be under the inspector's microscope. These latter sections painstakingly dramatize Ragna's story, which begins with her account of receiving an anonymous letter that reads "YOU ARE GOING TO DIE." Gradually it's revealed that all the while Sejer is questioning Ragna, she is being held on remand, awaiting trial. The crime of which she is accused doesn't become apparent until the book's final chunk.

Karin Fossum's 13th Inspector Sejer novel (among them The Murder of Harriet Krohn and Hell Fire), which requires no familiarity with the series' earlier titles, displays her signature panache ("Lies sound like nails falling into a tin. But the truth is more of a rushing sound...."). In The Whisperer she takes a narrative risk that may prove controversial for some readers. But for anyone willing to give the author some leeway, the book's rewards, delivered until literally the last page, are abundant and a reminder of what makes Fossum a true force in Scandi noir. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer