The Fourth Man – K. O. Dahl

4m The Fourth Man by K.O.Dahl (Faber)

Sex can sometimes be great.  Frank Frølich, Oslo policeman finds himself in a “stick up” situation – no, no, no, not an erection courtesy of Elastoplast and/or Dyson, but a face to face, torso to living torso, legs entwined, seriously life-ticker-threatening situation with a black haired beautiful female, after they’ve been in a face to face, torso to living torso, legs entwined, seriously life-ticker-threatening situation avoiding bullets on the floor of a shop.  Phew!  Shortly later, Frølich is able to re-live the bedded situation again, this time in more relaxed circumstances and the black haired beauty has captured his heart, even if she prefers to remain as free as a gelatine leaf in the wind.  Got the picture?  Black haired beauty literally tumbles into Frølich’s life and he unexpectedly finds passion, possibly love, but most definitely obsession.

And so begins The Fourth Man from K.O.Dahl.

Caught up in the heat of the moment, lovers are not always selected with care.  In this case Frølich has inadvertently chosen to bed and fall in love with the sister of a well known criminal.  Frølich then finds himself on enforced leave when a case involving the brother, Jonny Faremo, flares up and the sister, his lover, Elizabeth Faremo disappears (assumed dead in a fire with forensic evidence to prove it).  On the periphery and because he can’t accept she’s dead, Frølich works on the case himself.  He struggles to know what to believe and his colleagues doubt him; but he just can’t accept Elizabeth is dead.

This is a cracking, page turning read and for me, a great introduction to Dahl.  Unfortunately, it’s let down by the details of its dénouement where it goes into “tell and not show” leaving the reader feeling as though a quite few scenes have been missed out in favour of a speedy exit via a conversation that nicely sums up the plot threads.  For once, more pages would have been better to continue with the mantra “show and don’t tell” – that does work in storytelling.

But, I am hooked and can overlook the ending here.  I like Frølich and I want to read more.  He’s male, he’s intelligent, but also fallible because of his testosterone.  Very real, in fact.

Interestingly, I skimmed the first few pages of his next novel in the series, the other day: The Man in the Window.  This also has a sex scene in the early pages.  I thought it was always cold in Norway and not hot.  But where the Brits fear to tread – in case “mum” or a friend is reading the output – the Norwegians lead the way.  Sometimes, yes, less is more, but here Dahl made the sex and the relationship integral to the plot.  A welcome and original diversion.