A naive and uncomplicated bachelor farmer, Gunder Jomann, sees a picture of an Indian woman in a book and decides to go to India to find a wife. This journey is a daunting prospect for a man who has hardly ever left his small town of Elvestad, but he is determined. The story of his journey is brief but touching. He is successful and returns home to prepare for the arrival of his new wife, Poona, while she settles her affairs in India.
Just as he is leaving for the airport to pick Poona up, Gunder gets a call from the hospital. His beloved sister has been in a terrible accident. From the hospital, he calls the local taxi driver and asks him to pick up Poona, but the driver misses her at the airport. The next day Poona’s body is found in a field near Gunder’s house.
Inspector Konrad Sejer and his partner Jacob Skarre are assigned to solve the crime. Most crime novels since Sherlock Holmes deal with solving puzzles posed by clever criminals, but this novel is unusual in reflecting the type of crime that is probably more often dealt with by the police, random violence by people who are not professional criminals and not particularly clever. Some of the suspects are a local café owner, a muscle-bound young man, and an attention-seeking teenager. In a strange way, the focus of the novel reflects a more innocent world, which is exactly how I felt when reading about Gunder and Poona’s romance. I kept hoping the body would turn out to be that of some other Indian woman, not Poona.
The setting is rich, the characters are complex, the puzzle is interesting. I find Inspector Sejer not as well developed as some of his suspects, but perhaps I just need to read more Fossum.