ISBN: 0571232914 / 978057123291
Publication Date (UK): 1.05.2008
The Man in the Window is K O Dahl’s third novel in his Gunnarstranda/Frohlich series but only the second to be translated into English. I reviewed The Fourth Man last year. This review copy was kindly sent by Faber and Faber. Many thanks!
The title character is a naked corpse found in a shop window early one morning by a unsuspecting passerby. The dead man is Reidar Folke Jesperson and there are many with a motive to kill him – almost everyone in his family, in fact. Their motives firmly established in the first section of the novel which describes the last day of his life.
Nothing more about the crime or its resolution except to say that there is, after 482 pages (in the review copy) a surprising denouement. A good mystery, full of twists, turns and red herrings and at times pulse-raising suspense. Themes of love, guilt, betrayal and the shadow of the past resonating not only in the mystery but also in the lives of the detectives on the case. In particular the love life of Frolich, a man struggling to extricate himself from a dissatisfactory relationship before embarking on something new. Here at a restaurant with his longstanding girlfriend:
“We had all this in the discussion on TV last night, didn’t we”, he answered slowly. “The topic was done to death”.
She was hurt. Because the answer was too brutal, he thought. In other words, being uninterested , or not feigning interest is too brutal. …. she would not allow herself to reveal too much of the hurt. Instead she fled into a self-constructed state of mind … Eva-Britt’s demilitarised zone. Here the important thing was to be disarming , to find neutral ground as soon as possible. As usual she blew out her cheeks. “I am so full” she said, imitating a beach ball. “All blob!”
In other situations Dahl is more lyrical and philosophical. Here the thoughts of the 78 year old murder victim.
It was a feeling he hated more than any other – how, with the passing of the years, apathy had sneaked into his consciousness in the same way that mist seeps into the forest to make it impenetrable and colourless.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Man in The Window even though The Fourth Man is a stronger, more sensational novel. This is to be expected – The Fourth Man, translated first, is number 5 in the series and, thus, the more recent offering. Firm evidence, therefore, of Dahl’s improved writerly skills. Such are the vagaries of reading translated fiction. I hear that Faber have commissioned the translations of novels 2 and 6. In some way the sequence of their publication is irrelevant. I shall read them both.