Here’s something recycled from Black Static #9:-
The Shadow in the River by Frode Grytten
(Abacus paperback, 224pp, £7.99)
With its industry rundown, the backwoods town of Odda is on its uppers and there is a deep resentment felt towards the Serbian migrant community. When a young man is run off the road and killed suspicion naturally falls on the outsiders: the Pedersen boy was a member of a Norwegian nationalist group and seen arguing with three Serbs before his death. With tension running high, Odda becomes the focus of media attention, and reporter on the spot Robert is the man to bring home the story, particularly as his brother Frank is leading the police investigation. But Robert has problems of his own, not least of which is that he is having an affair with Frank’s wife Irene, who then goes missing. Robert has made a fatal mistake; instead of simply reporting the news he has become the news.
Author Grytten lived in Odda and was a reporter for fifteen years, so it’s tempting to wonder how much of the story is rooted in fact. Certainly the layers of cynicism with regard to the Fourth Estate that are neatly folded into the story seem deeply felt, with Robert entirely credible as the hack who has spent so long in the game that he no longer cares about anything, only to be as surprised as his employers at stumbling across a streak of integrity in his twilight years. Similarly, even if, as I suspect from the character names, the book has been retooled for the Anglo-market, the Norwegian setting is convincingly realised, with Odda on the one hand sufficiently Scandinavian in tone to seem alien and on the other generating a familiar sense of malaise and desuetude, the telltale spoor of any small town that has seen better days.
The focus of the book is not on crime so much as the way in which the media depicts crime, the need to tell a story, any story, and never mind things like ethics and truth or loyalty (as witness how Robert is to get screwed over by his colleagues when Irene’s disappearance comes into the spotlight). It’s a telling account of how we are all culpable in rejecting the truth, not wanting to know, preferring the fiction to reality, and if I have a reservation about the book it’s to do with the lack of closure at its end, the whole thing just slipping away as media attention moves on to the next hot topic, but then I guess that was the point of it all, with the whiff of cynicism and failed idealism embodied in the acerbic Robert, the only one who actually wants to know the truth and a loser on that score alone.