Review: Some authors say they never outline a story or create character profiles, preferring instead to simply start writing and let the character and plot develop in real time, as it were. Karin Fossum, author of the Konrad Sejer mysteries, has taken this process a step further, developing it into Broken, a her first stand-alone novel of suspense.
An unnamed author — "a tired, middle-aged woman trying to keep going" — sees potential characters for her future novels standing outside the her house. It's an orderly queue. First in line is a young woman holding a dead baby. But a young man, who had been standing just behind her, suddenly exits the queue and appears in her bedroom. "You've jumped the line," the author says. "I know," he groans. "There's always someone ahead of me — I'm used to that. But I can't bear it any longer. I'm exhausted. You have to tell my story now — you have to start this morning!" And so the author does, first naming the character Alvar Eide, then describing him and creating a setting in which he can play a role — a role in which he increasingly becomes to despair.
The premise for Broken has an off-beat appeal to it, but it doesn't quite work as a full-length novel, being much better suited for a short story, or at most, a novella. Alvar Eide's story, lifted from the artificial construct of an author speaking to their character and vice versa, holds some interest for the reader as an independent novel of suspense, but it's impossible not to be drawn back into the underlying author/character relationship and the sense that the reader isn't somehow being manipulated in some hidden, unknown manner.
The conclusion to Broken is also a bit odd, if not ironic, with the author expressing disappointment with the outcome. "I'm not ecstatic [with this book]. But that's the way life is. My dissatisfaction drives me to act, to write another book." Of course, this statement is made by the unnamed author in Broken and her book is the fictional novel about Alvar Eide; still, it's not at all clear if this statement may have been intended to be autobiographical or not.
Acknowledgment: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt provided a copy of Broken for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Broken: Sweden
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Broken by Karin Fossum
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: August 2010
List Price: $25.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
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