The story begins when a little girl named Ragnhild who has disappeared from her village and no one knows where she is. She was going home when a man picked her up in his van and said that he would take her where she needed to go.
Obviously, this is terrifying and you hope for the best. Ragnhild is brought back to this man’s house and after a while she pleads with the man to take her home. Eventually, he agrees and he leaves her by her parents house.
Inspector Sejer has already gotten involved in the case and he is questioning people along with his partner. Once the girl returns home, every one is relieved until Ragnhild makes a startling confession. She saw a dead body with this man in the woods.
This is where the story, Don’t Look Back begins, as Sejer along with his team go out to the woods to see the woman who has died. Her name is Annie and she is a student. There are a multitude of suspects and it’s up to Sejer to solve the mystery.
To me, it didn’t make much sense to start the story with the disappearance of Ragnhild. For a book that was 421 pages, having what seemed like 30 or 40 pages to begin with on this story which has nothing to do with the murder seems bizarre. Yes, children can disappear and this is scary but why bother putting it at the beginning of a mystery that will have nothing to do with the rest of the story seems more like a waste of pages if anything. Just start the mystery with Ragnhild seeing a body would make more sense to me.
As far as the rest of the book is concerned, much of it is a dry police procedural with Sejer and his partner questioning suspects. The point of view switches back to the minds of the suspects as well, which again, makes the story drag on. The story seemed to go on forever for me at times, as if each chapter was at least 50 pages, if not more.
The story takes place in a rural village outside of Oslo, but unlike novels by my favorite writer, Camilla Lackberg, there wasn’t much of a feeling that this takes place in Norway. Yes, this was a poor village and one of the people who was questioned mentioned that some children spent most of their lives weaving baskets until their fingers were worn out. That only made the book more depressing for me.
Aa a result, most of the novel lacked any real suspense for me. Since the viewpoints were going back and fourth between Sejer and the suspects, this put an interesting twist on the last 50 pages of the novel as the killer was revealed. You could say that it was a dark twist but in detective novels, I prefer that someone like Sejer has all the answers like DCI Banks or other great detectives.
In some ways, you could say that these characters were broken, making this more of a psychological thriller. The problem here was that you needed more of a story other then a detective questioning suspects. Again, if you were to compare this to Lackberg, you would find that she creates a story that is more character driven with a great ending.
Not a great novel but not a bad one either. I understand that this book is loosely based on an Italian film, The Girl By The Lake. That movie didn’t get good reviews. While there were a lot of good reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, I can’t follow them and will give this book three stars.