The Lovely Bones

Detective Len Fenerman Character Analysis

The detective assigned to Susie’s case, Len Fenerman is a sensitive and well-meaning but often blind or irresponsible man whose feelings for Abigail often get in the way of his police-work. Len is at first disinclined to believe Jack’s suspicions about George Harvey, but after Lindsey retrieves a piece of evidence—illegally—from Harvey’s house, Len is forced, too late, to see the truth. He misses catching George Harvey on his way out of town, as Len is busy making love to Abigail in a secret passageway in the local mall. Years after missing out on apprehending Harvey, new evidence forces Len to reexamine Susie’s case, and to come to terms with the fact that George Harvey was not just Susie’s killer but the killer of a string of women and girls all along the Northeast Corridor. Fenerman, a widower, is a victim not just of his own grief and desire, but Abigail’s as well. His arc represents the dark side of sexual longing and desire for connection alike, showing the disruptions that desire can engender, and the ways in which it can steer one off the beaten path.

Detective Len Fenerman Quotes in The Lovely Bones

The The Lovely Bones quotes below are all either spoken by Detective Len Fenerman or refer to Detective Len Fenerman. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Back Bay edition of The Lovely Bones published in 2002.
Chapter 12 Quotes

And I watched that flat red mouth move across an invisible line that separated her from the rest of the world. She pulled Len in and kissed him on the mouth. He seemed to hesitate at first. His body tensed, telling him NO, but that NO became vague and cloudy, became air sucked into the intake fan of the humming hydrant beside them. She reached up and unbuttoned her raincoat. He placed his hand against the thin gauzy material of her summer gown… I knew what was happening. Her rage, her loss, her despair. The whole life lost tumbling out in an arc on that roof, clogging up her being. She needed Len to drive the dead daughter out. He pushed her back into the stucco surface of the wall as they kissed, and my mother held on to him as if on the other side of his kiss there could be a new life.

Related Characters: Susie Salmon (speaker), Abigail Salmon, Detective Len Fenerman
Page Number: 148, 152
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 20 Quotes

At some point, to counter the list of the dead, I had begun keeping my own list of the living. It was something I noticed Len Fenerman did too. When he was off duty he would note the young girls and elderly women and every other female in the rainbow in between and count them among the things that sustained him. That young girl in the mall whose pale legs had grown too long for her now-too-young dress and who had an aching vulnerability that went straight to both Len's and my own heart. Elderly women, wobbling with walkers, who insisted on dyeing their hair unnatural versions of the colors they had in youth. Middle-aged single mothers racing around in grocery stores while their children pulled bags of candy off the shelves. When I saw them, I took count. Living, breathing women. Sometimes I saw the wounded—those who had been beaten by husbands or raped by strangers, children raped by their fathers—and I would wish to intervene somehow.

Related Characters: Susie Salmon (speaker), Detective Len Fenerman
Page Number: 271-272
Explanation and Analysis:
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Detective Len Fenerman Character Timeline in The Lovely Bones

The timeline below shows where the character Detective Len Fenerman appears in The Lovely Bones. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
...Susie’s father, takes a phone call from the police. The lead detective on the case, Len Fenerman, delivers horrible news: the police have found a body part. Jack asks the police... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
...around him in a huddle to see what he has found. After a minute, Detective Fenerman breaks from the huddle and turns to the line of neighbors gathered at the edge... (full context)
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Fenerman holds up a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, and asks the woman if her... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
On December 15th, Len Fenerman knocks on the Salmons’ front door. In the living room, he sits down with... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Jack leads Len to the door, where Len tells him that going forward, the police are now working... (full context)
Chapter 5
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
...Lindsey that he understands, although he doesn’t, and goes downstairs to place a call to Len Fenerman. (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
...to a murder is usually found is growing smaller each day, and so he calls Len to tell him that he believes Mr. Harvey knows something about Susie’s death. He explains... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
On his first trip to George Harvey’s house in the days after Susie’s murder, Len Fenerman finds nothing remarkable or suspicious about the man. He finds him a to be... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Fenerman asks where Harvey usually builds the tent. Harvey answers the basement, and volunteers to show... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
Later, Len calls Jack Salmon to tell him that though Harvey is odd, there is nothing incriminating... (full context)
Chapter 6
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
...first time he has admitted that he is suspicious of George Harvey to anyone but Len Fenerman. (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Susie describes Len Fenerman, who is “different from the rest of the force.” He is small, quiet, and... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
Susie reveals that Len Fenerman keeps a stack of photos in his wallet of the victims whose murders he... (full context)
Chapter 9
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
...“the evil grandma,” and then the Salmons, together with the Hecklers, head into the church. Len Fenerman is inside, and though Jack asks him to come sit with their family, Len... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
...to Lindsey and whispers to her, telling her to look toward the door. Standing behind Len Fenerman, who is inside the doorway and singing along, is George Harvey. Lindsey locks eyes... (full context)
Chapter 11
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
...shared them with Abigail—he is afraid she might say something about Jack’s dark desire to Len Fenerman. Jack has noticed that Abigail is leaning more heavily on the police lately; she... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
...police repeatedly to report small things about Harvey, thus irritating the police. In early August, Len stops by the Salmon house to set some boundaries. Lindsey lets Len in—she has just... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
That night, Jack writes in his notebook that “Abigail thinks Len Fenerman is right about Harvey.” Alone in his study, he considers how Abigail has shied... (full context)
Chapter 12
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
...her husband still in surgery, and immediately puts a call through to the police, requesting Len Fenerman join her at the hospital. Abigail paces near the nurse’s station, wearing only a... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
Out on a small concrete balcony, Len and Abigail smoke together. Abigail asks Len how his wife died, and he tells her... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
...she sealed the more mysterious parts of herself off. Susie realizes, watching her mother and Len embrace one another, that her mother has been “bottled up for years behind that wall,”... (full context)
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
Hal Heckler, still in the visitor’s area, watches Abigail and Len—hair and clothes mussed—walk back down the hall toward Jack’s room. Farther down the hall, Hal... (full context)
Chapter 13
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
...but Abigail is detached and removed. She finds herself more and more often daydreaming of Len as a way to cope with the grief and monotony of her life. (full context)
Chapter 15
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Jack calls the station and asks for Len Fenerman, but Fenerman cannot be located—the police tell Jack that two officers have already been... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
...how her killer had committed the crime. The officers believe him, and let him know—apologetically—that Fenerman will probably be coming by tomorrow to go over the same line of questioning. Mr.... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
After picking Buckley up from Nate’s house, Abigail stops at a pay phone, calls Len, and instructs him to meet her in a store at the mall. He does not... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
Len leads Abigail down a hallway in the mall, and through a white door set flush... (full context)
Snapshots
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
...try and catch Harvey. While waiting at the station, Lindsey spots something familiar on Detective Fenerman’s desk—it is her mother’s red scarf. She confronts Fenerman, and asks him why he has... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
In the fall of 1976, Len Fenerman visits the evidence room at the police station. The animal bones unearthed from Harvey’s... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
In December of 1981, Len Fenerman receives a call from a precinct in Delaware—a murder in Wilmington has been connected... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
...but Ralph tells Hal that the renter had built dollhouses. Hal places a call to Len Fenerman. (full context)
Chapter 19
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
...the parking garage, Abigail apologizes for lying to Lindsey—their eyes meet, and the secret of Len hangs in the air between them. Once in the car, Lindsey tells Abigail that the... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
...the night, when Jack went out into the cornfield. She recalls her first kiss with Len, which took place on the balcony that day, and feels the impulse to flee back... (full context)
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
...a nurse carrying a message for Jack Salmon. Lynn reads the note: it is from Len Fenerman, and it promises that he will visit soon. Lynn folds the note neatly and... (full context)
Chapter 20
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
...of the dead, Susie has begun keeping a list of the living—she has noticed that Len Fenerman does this, too. Off-duty, he notes all of the girls and women he observes... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
Len writes in Susie’s file for the first time in a long time. He has obtained... (full context)
Chapter 21
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
...Route 30, at a spot Ruth and Ray are about to drive past. She sees Len coming out of an apartment carrying a knapsack full of evidence—photos of the graves of... (full context)
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
Len arrives at the hospital and enters Jack’s room. Abigail awkwardly welcomes him. Len tells Abigail... (full context)