The Indian Bride
Karin Fossum’s The Indian Bride is a mystery novel written in the police procedural subgenre. Like the earlier books in this series by the author, The Indian Bride features two detectives: the calm, deliberate Inspector Konrad Sejer and his young assistant, Jacob Skarre, who again proceed from clues and interviews to an arrest. However, the book is more complex than the format might suggest. The story is not only built around tragic love but also is a sociological study of a small Norwegian town and its inhabitants.
The novel begins with a bloody battle between an unnamed young man and his Rottweiler, a struggle that ends only when both are covered with blood and the dog is thoroughly cowed. Fossum then introduces Gunder Jomann, a lonely, unmarried farm machinery salesman who has become fascinated with the photographs of Indian women in a book given to him by his beloved younger sister, Marie Dahl. Soon Gunder informs Marie that he is flying to Mumbai, India, where he will devote two weeks to finding himself a wife. At a tandoori restaurant, he meets a pretty, unattached waitress, Poona Bai, and within a few days she is as much in love with the tall, quiet Norwegian as he is with her. They are married, and he returns home on schedule. Sixteen days later, she is to follow him to his home in Elvestad, Norway. Meanwhile, Gunder works frantically to refurbish his home in anticipation of her arrival.
On the day that Poona is to arrive at Gardermoen Airport, Gunder is informed that Marie has been in a serious automobile accident and is hospitalized. It is uncertain whether she will come out of her coma or even whether she will survive at all. Since her husband is away, Gunder feels obligated to stay with her. However, he sends his friend Kalle Moe, who has a minicab, to pick up Poona at the airport and bring her to Elvestad. Somehow Moe misses her, and Gunder never hears from her again. When the body of a foreign woman is found only a few hundred yards away from his house, Gunder refuses to believe that it could be Poona. However, after Sejer shows him the filigree brooch that he had given Poona and the yellow bag that she always carried, Gunder can no longer hope that the murdered woman is not his wife. Devastated, he returns to the bedside of his still unconscious sister, not only out of his love for her but also because he feels that she is the only person left who cares about him.
Although the people of Elvestad would like to think that the murderer was a stranger who just happened to be passing through their village, Sejer soon rules out that possibility, and they are left with the uncomfortable truth that there is a killer living among them. One would think that they would search their memories and provide the police with the necessary information to solve the case, but they do not. If they do proffer some details, the villagers omit others that are often even more important. One reason for their stubborn silence is that the village is a closed society. The young men in the village never go elsewhere to find young women; they simply pass around the girls at hand and eventually select their wives from the same group. Everyone knows better than to comment on a bride’s previous history. This is just one example of the importance of discretion in a village of just over two thousand people, many of whom are related to each other. While inevitably there is a good deal of gossip in Elvestad, it moves from friend to friend, given with promises of secrecy which, of course, are promptly ignored, but though the interesting item may be passed on to still another resident, often it does not reach the police. If even the urbanites who moved to Elvestad are not considered part of the village, one would hardly expect the policemen, who live elsewhere, to be accepted. They are outsiders and are treated as such.
(The entire section is 1581 words.)