According to the trade statistics I have seen, the Swedish economy is almost completely driven by exports. In 2005 export trade accounted for almost 45% of Sweden's gross domestic product. Although I'd always thought this export trade was dominated by manufactured and primary goods I'm now coming to the (lighthearted) conclusion that the export of crime novels from Sweden must be one of its emerging export sectors. I've spent a good deal of time in recent months reading the Inspector Martin Beck series by the team of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (including "The Laughing Policeman" and "Roseanna") and the Inspector Kurt Wallander series by Henning Mankell (including "The Dogs of Riga" and "The Man Who Smiled"). Just when I thought I'd explored the entire body of Swedish crime fiction I came across Hakan Nesser's "Borkmann's Point" which is styled as "An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery" and felt compelled to see how it measured up to the other series. Although I enjoyed "Borkmann's Point" I found it somewhat less enticing then either the Beck or Wallander series.
"Borkmann's Point" is set in the coastal town of Kaalbringen. The protagonist, Inspector Van Veeteren, has been sent to help the (presumably) less-skilled local police in its investigation of two brutal axe murders. The victims appear to have no connection to each other. The story lines follow two parallel paths: Van Veeteren's investigation and his relationship with the local police force. Each story line is developed competently but neither the evidence-gathering nor the development of Van Veeteren's relationship with the locals really captured my imagination.
What I found most interesting in Borkmann's Point was the setting. Unlike Sjowall/Wahloo and Mankell, "Borkmann's Point" is not set in Sweden but in a fictional city, Kaalbringen, in a country in which the characters appear to have Dutch, German, Swedish, and Danish names. In other words, Nesser seems to have created a generic European country for purposes of his fiction.
On the plus side, "Borkmann's Point" is a well-written, thoughtful novel. Despite the gruesome murders that propel the story, "Borkmann's Point" is focused more on the process of police work, the art and arduousness of investigation and detection, rather than on a pillar-to-post thriller. The very title of the book, once it is explained about halfway through the book, is in itself a clue for both Van Veeteren and the reader as to the process of crime-solving. It is a fascinating point and one that should intrigue many readers.
On the minus side, I never really felt vested in the lives of the main characters in the books. I enjoyed the interplay between Van Veeteren and the local police force, particularly his evening spent drinking wine and playing chess with the local police chief but it wasn't so engaging that I hung on every word.
I'll probably give the next book in the series a look to see if Van Veeteren grows on me or not. Until then, I can give "Borkmann's Point" only a modest "thumbs up". L. Fleisig