Five Stars? No, SIX 'TOTALLY ENJOYABLE' Stars! To me, it's a MASTERPIECE of a detective novel. Hakan Nesser is an AWESOME storyteller of the first water with this award-winning novel in it's international debut, transparently translated from Swedish. "My Best Read" this year in the murder mystery/thriller genre!
Premise: There's a brutal killer on the loose in the seaside town of Kaalbringen and everyone's terrified! Inspector Van Veeteren is called in to help the local police. They have a self-imposed 14 days to catch the killer or the case may go cold. The reader will realize early on that the novel's title itself is almost as elusive as the guilty.
Many of us will be meeting the relentless Detective Chief Inspector Van Veeteren for the first time and he is a no-nonsense, very detailed, logically-thinking, but personally flawed sleuth. And his investigative associates are no less impressive. Nesser grabs us from the first sentence and ramps up all the way to the end. Trust me, it gets better and more engrossing as it goes along. I actually slowed down to enjoy the paragraphs, re-reading some passages over and over, stretching a day's read over a few enjoyable days. The dinner scene, for instance, between Police Chief Bausen and Inspector Van Veeteren is a pure joy to read (and re-read) as they discuss the clues over chess, revealing the ability of this writer to create wonderous scenes and dialogue out of the most mundane of situations. Nesser even introduces us to the unknown guilty several times, early on, putting us directly in their mind.
Somewhat gory and very technical (in a murder, he tells exactly where the weapon hits the body and the damage done, right down to the 'gurgling sound' as the body is dragged off). This is a fabulous 'police procedural' with unusually deep, totally believable examinations of the human condition and of the crimes. All while letting us superimpose our own impressions of the physical characteristics on each player with just a few hints. He even boldly reveals the guilty to the observant reader by three quarters through the novel, so that we can watch the cat and mouse game that ensues from that point. For those who miss the big clue, the resolution is a double jolting surprise. Either way, Nesser's got us boxed in; right where he wants us.
"The right questions...the right haystacks", Indeed! More Van Veeteren, please! It doesn't get much better than this. Five Stars? Let's call it SIX!! My Highest Recommendation!
*Thanks to Laurie Thompson for his wonderfull translation. This review is based on an unabridged Digital Download in Adobe Reader 7.0. Save a tree, download!
*Maybe now the Van Veeteren films available on DVD will be closed-captioned in English and recorded in Region 1 DVD format for the enjoyment of fans in the US and Canada.)