Bad Intentions (Den onde viljen) is the ninth novel in Norwegian and the seventh in English in Karin Fossum’s excellent series about Inspector Konrad Sejer. It is a psychological thriller about living with bad conscience and a police procedural where we partly know whodunit.
The plot is very interesting. Early one September day, three old friends – Axel, Reilly and Jon – go on a weekend trip together. Jon has severe psychological problems and suffers from anxiety attacks. Axel and Reilly have picked him up at the hospital and brought him to their favorite place, a remote cabin in the forest, to cheer him up.
They are restless, and decide to row out on the Dead Water Lake, the little lake next to the cabin. Out on the lake, Jon starts to feel very anxious and jumps into the lake. One of the friends wants to try to save him; the other one prevents it. They decide to construct a shared story about what happened that presents it as a suicide, and they wait until the next morning before calling the police.
When the police, Konrad Sejer and his assistant Skarre arrives, Sejer and Skarre quickly detect some problems with the story the two boys tell them. Some of the facts do not fit the story all that well. But the boys – the only witnesses – are consistent and tell the same story. Sejer strongly feels that the boys are hiding something. However, finding what they hide and the truth behind Jon’s death will prove very difficult. Weeks pass without further clues, and then in a nearby lake the body of a teenage boy floats to the surface.
Bad Intentions is an intelligent psychological crime novel that deals with bad conscious and its effects on the human mind. Fossum has created a smart plot where lies lead to further lies and actions to cover the initial lies, and very cleverly describes the consequences of this within a friendship. As the context changes, what was once mutual trust turns gradually into fear and distrust. And, as Fossum shows, it is sometimes very hard to hide the truth – it has a way of popping up when you least expect it!
I was very fascinated by this book. It is excellently written and cleverly plotted. It just feels like a very believable, very real story, and at the same time as it is suspenseful and entertaining, it is also a book that made me ponder. I strongly recommend Bad Intentions – it is a marvelous crime fiction book!