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One summer evening Lily and her husband are enjoying a meal while their baby daughter sleeps peacefully in her pram in the garden. But then Lily steps outside to find her baby soaked in blood.
The distraught parents rush to the hospital where they discover that she is unharmed - the blood isn't hers. Inspector Sejer is called in and spends the evening trying to comprehend why anyone would carry out such a sinister prank. Then, just before midnight, somebody rings his doorbell.
The corridor is empty, but the caller has left a small grey envelope on the mat. Inside it, Sejer finds a postcard bearing a short message: Hell begins now...
At the outset of Fossum's unsettling eighth Inspector Sejer mystery to be published in the U.S. (after 2011's Bad Intentions), Karsten and Lily Sundelin fear the worst after they discover their eight-month-old baby girl covered in blood in their front yard. Fortunately, someone has only doused their child in blood and left her unharmed. Sejer and his junior partner, Jacob Skarre, soon discover more disturbing occurrences, from an elderly woman reading her own obituary in the local paper to a man suffering from ALS who's approached by a mortuary before he is dead. Meanwhile, the reader is privy to the thoughts of the unhappy 17-year-old perpetrator, Johnny Beskow, who has a grudge against his alcoholic mother and "a distinct talent for mischief." Fossum manages to create menace without a high body count, and strikes a realistic note by not allowing her investigators to wrap up everything.