Where Fact Is Stranger Than Fiction

The events which took place in Norway last week disturbed me in a way which I didn’t really expect. Of course, the whole horror of what actually happened both in Oslo but even more so at the island camp haven has profoundly shocked the world. Parents send their kids off on these camps as something of a routine, and usually breathe a sigh of relief that they are happy, safe and secure for a good part of the holiday. I have four children spread far afield over the summer at different camps this year, and the trauma the Norwegian families are suffering now is beyond my imagination. Possibly no bad thing, since otherwise I might never let them leave the house.

But the Norwegian events bother me for other reasons. I have long been addicted to crime fiction, and a while back started in on the extraordinary range of Scandinavian detective novels. I was looking for new authors earlier this year, and noticed the bookshop was pushing/promoting Jo Nesbo‘s books. I succumbed, and have quite enjoyed them. They are well written, and he tells a good story. But the novels focus on a central character who has the distinction of being Norway’s only specialist serial killer detective. Trained by the FBI, with experience gained overseas, he is around in the right place to solve everything when Norway gets its first deranged serial killer. As I finished the most recent book on the day the Oslo events took place, I felt a great sense of unease at the nasty coincidence of the mass shootings.

There is no basis at all for linking the book and the events, but still. I can’t help but wonder at what we are all becoming as a society through our consumption of this highly entertaining but nonetheless grisly and violent genre. I am aware that I have become hardened (in a way which bothers me enormously) to descriptions of violent crime. Just as one example, I first read Jonathan Kellerman‘s The Butcher’s Theatre about 15 years ago, and nearly had to stop because I was so appalled at the violence. I re-read the book a couple of years ago out of interest, and was appalled to discover I couldn’t even recognise the passages which so shocked me a decade earlier.

Sadly, Norway has not proved immune to evil in real-life. The horrific extent of  the Utoeya disaster is something which lies beyond the imagination of even a crime novelist.


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