He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum

He Who Fears the Wolf, originally published in 1997 as Den som frykter ulven, has been translated from the Norwegian by Felicity David. This is the third book in Inspector Konrad Seijer series and the second one to be published in English. He Who Fears the Wolf gave Fossum The Booksellers’ Prize in Norway.

The action takes place in Finnemarka when an elderly woman, Halldis Horn, is found brutally murdered in an isolated farm house. The body is discovered by Kanninck, an overweight twelve-year-old boy, while he was practicing archery nearby. Kanninck, a resident in an orphanage for children with behavioural disorders, reports having seen Errki Johrma in the woods around the house. Errki, a disturbed schizophrenic, has just escaped from a mental asylum and becomes the prime suspect.

Meanwhile Inspector Konrad Sejer is called to investigate when he is about to become witness on a bank robbery. The robber escapes taking with him a hostage. After a careful examination of the bank security tapes, the hostage is identified as Errki Johrma. The robber, who likes to be called Morgan, soon finds out that his hostage is a suspect of a murder case and has a mental disorder; his behaviour is totally unpredictable. As the tragedy unfolds, Errki’s whispered warning that ‘he who fears the wolf shouldn’t go into the forest

The story is narrated shifting the point of view among the different characters, thus providing access to the thoughts of Errki, Morgan, and Kannick, along with their traumatic backgrounds. Inspector Sejer and his assistant, Jacob Scarre, play a minor role. The book is more a psychological thriller rather than a police procedural. I enjoyed reading it more than Don’t Look Back, the previous one in the series. I  fully agree with Marilyn Stasio when she states that: ‘In spare, incisive prose, she (Karin Fossum) turns a conventional police procedural into a sensitive examination of troubled minds and a disturbing look at the way society views them’ ( The New York Times 10 July, 2005). I am looking forward to read the next books in the series.

He Who Fears the Wolf has been reviewed by Karen Meek at Eurocrime, Mostly Fiction Book Reviews and another review. See other reviews at Amazon.com.

Karin Fossum

Vintage Books

Read an excerpt

Karin Fossum

He Who Fears the Wolf

Translated by Felicity David

Vintage BOOKS, 2004

Number of pages: 400

ISBN: 978-0099455226

5 thoughts on “He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum”

  1. >José Ignacio – Thank you for this excellent review. What a fascinating premise for a novel: taking a hostage who turns out to be at least as dangerous as the abductor is. So interesting! I may try this one…

  2. >I am quite impressed by Fossum´s later novels, but on the other hand I also miss her earlier works which were more ordinary police procedurals.

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