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  • Chet Baker

Book Review-BROKEN by Karin Fossum

Unique book.

I was somehow led to believe BROKEN would be a thriller. Wrong. It's pure suspense, and mystery. A thought-provoking dark character study of Alvar Eide a gentle man living a boring, structured life working in an art gallery. A shy, socially inept, closet gay in a highly structured life. He is obsessed with one question. "Am I a good person?"

This story is a story within a story. It begins with an author (unnamed) who writes novels of people’s lives. But unique. She writes stories that come alive. She maps out their outcomes in advance. Sets the stage for who the person will become and what lies ahead. In an odd way, peiole they wait silently in line for their turn. But they wait patiently for her to finish with a story before taking on a new person. The line is outside her door, in weather, long, somber and dismal.

One day, she is confronted by Alvar, who wants to have his story written sooner rather than later. He convinces her to allow him to jump ahead. Past a woman holding a dead baby. As his story unfolds, he isn't satisfied with how his life in being scripted. He continues to come back to the writer with complaints. She tellls him it is what it is. The mystery plays out so very well written and delicately crafted. A sixteen-year-old drug addict girl easily gaslights the weak middle-aged Alvar. She turns his stable, predictable life upside down. Fossum tortures the protagonist with self-imposed guilt and remorse. Even though the ending has no remarkable twists, no ah-ha moment, it is totally engrossing. One irony is how the sulking author manipulates Alvar with philosophical jargon just as the girl can control Alvar with precocious stabs into his insecurities. Both author and Alvar suffer similar fragility.

I didn’t think the plot was all that twisty, but rather deliciously intriguing once Lindy's manipulation becomes evident. In the beginning, I slogged along only sort of interested expecting the thriller fireworks to kick in. I actually put it down thinking it was going nowhere. A month later, wondering why I was still thinking of the circumstances for Alvar and Lindy, I picked it up to find out. It suddenly burst with intimacy when Alvar realized he was irrevocably seized to follow the girl into her voluntary hell.

This is my first Fossum. I have to say, she’s a creative master who knows how to craft the bond between characters and plot.

If you're looking for a clever, thought-provoking mystery, exceptionally well plotted with strong character development, check it out.

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