Saturday, 26 May 2007

The Shadow in the River by Frode Grytten

The Shadow in the River
Frode Grytten

ODDA is a quiet Norwegian town, where Robert Bell's the local stringer for a national paper.

Norway is like Ireland used to be: a murder is big news, a story that will last all summer.

When a young lad goes into the river in his car, everyone knows it's murder, and the Serbs killed him.

But Robert's paper parachutes in a star journalist and photographer to cover the story, and Robert is demoted to their chauffeur and local source.

He watches with lip lifted as they wade in, asking the wrong questions and treading on toes. They ask him to 'tickle' his brother, who's the cop leading the investigation; he says his brother isn't ticklish.

Indeed he isn't, and Robert is having an affair with his brother's wife - secret, they hope, but how secret can anything be in a small town where everyone calls the nationalist leader 'Knickers' because he's known to steal panties off washing lines.

Robert looks at it all with the gloomy eyes of a basset hound, wondering where social democracy went, and thinking 'There's nothing easier than covering a murder'.

Frode Grytten's morose thriller isn't really about murder, though; it's about ambition, greed, globalisation, money and excuses, lit by mordant humour and incisive insights.

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