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The Fourth Man    by K. O. Dahl order for
Fourth Man
by K. O. Dahl
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Let's face it, rating reviews is a tricky and sometimes subjective business. With three different ratings available at BookLoons, this reviewer (as a former teacher of literature at the university level) nevertheless tries to apply objective critical standards. In evaluating books, I consider any book not really worth reading (for any number of reasons) to be worthy of receiving not much more than a '1.' (There are, unfortunately, too many of those books on the market.) On the other hand, a book that I would recommend to most friends and family as worth their time and effort, depending upon their reading interests, would be given a '2.' Each of the less frequently published books that I would enthusiastically recommend to friends and family as an absolute must read would be a '3.' Then there are the rarest of books, like The Fourth Man by K. O. Dahl ('Norway's premier crime writer'), which I would obsessively force upon friends and family, insisting all the time that the top-ranked '3' rating is still inadequate. Yes, The Fourth Man is that good! Do not miss this one!

Readers of K. O. Dahl's superb noir thriller are introduced to Detective Inspector Frank Frølich of Oslo who has an accidental encounter at a crime scene with Elisabeth Faremo, a raven-haired beauty with sapphire eyes whose feline seductiveness is both powerful and mysterious. Frank and Elisabeth, much to his surprise, begin an uncommonly intense but singularly motivated relationship, which soon puts Frank in an increasingly awkward position among his peers within the police department.

When Elisabeth's brother (Jonny Faremo) is implicated as one of several suspects involved in the murder of a security guard, Elisabeth gives her brother an alibi, insisting that he and the two others under suspicion were with her; the emotionally involved Frank, however, has concerns about Elisabeth's assertions.

Soon, as the police continue their investigation into the security guard's murder, it becomes apparent that a fourth man may have also been involved. While the police and Frank intensify their search for the mysterious fourth suspect as the presumed key to solving the case, everything becomes more complicated and dangerous: a good friend of Elisabeth's is brutally attacked; a dead woman is found in a rural chalet belonging to Elisabeth's good friend; one of the three original suspects in the security guard murder case disappears, apparently the victim of an accidental drowning; and Frank - desperate to preserve and understand his relationship with Elisabeth, but increasingly challenged in his career with the police department - finds himself enmeshed in a complicated case dominated by passions, revenge, duplicity, and murders.

The Fourth Man is complex, dark, and powerful. Now, in this fine translation by Don Bartlett, Dahl's hard-boiled and erotic tale of obsession, sex, blackmail, and betrayal is available for American readers. Scandinavian countries have recently produced some of the very best crime/mystery writers in the world (Kjell Eriksson, Arnaldur Indriðason, Håkan Nesser, Stieg Larsson, and Henning Mankell immediately come to mind), but the prize-winning K. O. Dahl, since his debut in 1993, has shown himself to be a strong contender for leader of the pack. And as for how good The Fourth Man really is, readers should go back to the first paragraph of this review. Better yet, simply go to The Fourth Man. You will not be disappointed! That's a guarantee.

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