I felt the pressure as the year ends but the turning point was of course to remember that the holiday season was meant to be one that we cherished not get stressed over what we haven’t read! So I have decided to indulge in my guilty pleasure and read a fast moving crime fiction instead.
I know many may not agree with me, given a choice I would rather read Nesser or Mankell instead of Jo Nesbo, as I do enjoy an old fashioned investigation stories than an explosive thrilling one. I have read The Woman with Birthmark and The Mind’s Eye and love the first and like the second.
The story for this one starts with a young 16-year-old boy, named Wim, who left his girlfriend’s house missed the last bus. He had to walk his way home and was unfortunate to get knocked down by a drunk driver and was dead on the scene.
The drunk driver was determined to flee as he thought why own up to a crime and stay in prison when it was clearly an accident? So he did. The trouble didn’t end there as someone then wrote to the driver, always in a neat handwriting and in a blue envelope, demands a payment for keeping mum about the accident, or else Mr. Driver will go to jail for what he did. The drunk driver scanned his brain to recall who saw him that night. As he recalled only a passing scooter and a few oncoming cars was on the same road that night.
If I go on to spoil the story a bit further, the drunk driver followed his blackmailer’s instruction and deposited a bag of cash worth 10,000 kroner in the bin of a toilet in a restaurant, but he stayed on in his car to observe who got the bag of money. Minutes later, a guy named Erich emerged from the restaurant with the bag and the driver took a drastic action and pounded two blows on Erich’s head with a blunt object and the second victim was pronounced dead.
Now Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is retired from the Maardam police force and running an antiquarian bookstore, and is now with a new girlfriend named, Ulrike (Clearly I have missed a lot in a gap of two other books before this that I haven’t read!), Inspector Reinhart, who used to work under Van Veeteren, is in-charge now but when people speak of the Chief Inspector, Van Veeteren is still revered and regarded as one. The guy who picked up the bag of money, Erich, who was bludgeoned to death, is Inspector’s Van Veeteren’s son……..
The driver decided to commit more than one murder to cover up his track.
The Maardam police are baffled by the cases and there were no lead and nothing quite happen until page 237 (the novel has a total of 440 pages). By now I can’t help feeling, as in similar to the earlier novels, Chief Inspector Van Veeteren’s underlings are a bunch of incompetent policemen, waiting for the retired Chief to drop a hint and a hunch that help solved the case. Reinhart just came back from paternity leave, there is Ewa Moreno, who is single and lonely, Rooth and Jung all worked around the clock because Chief Van Veeteren’s son is dead. This crew of police force are projected more human than most as the author invested in telling the reader a little bit about their backgrounds and lifestyles.
oh and we owed it to Meusse, the pathologist who link the two cases together.
This is not a who-dunnit crime mystery as the story is told from the point of view of the perpetrator. The one thing that kept me in suspense is to know how the perpetrator will be caught at the end. I suppose the lightbulb was turned on for Van Veeteren (and for me as well) was an inspiration that sparks from the moment his mate changed the rule of the conventional chess playing.
The dead are older than the living, he thought. Irrespective of how old they were when they passed over to the other side, they have experienced something which makes them older than any living thing. Even a child. Even a son. – page 394
The story explores the mourning process of Van Veeteren. The regret he felt about burying his son. As always in Nesser’s crime novels, it’s not about the murder and solving the crime but it’s about being philosophical about life and what it means to be human. What it means when you take one wrong decision that will escalate your path to hell….
I thought the fact that both the blackmailer and the perpetrator has a red Audi and red scooter sounds trite. I also thought the convenience of linking the connections of the 3 crimes by mere theories that germinates from Officer Ewa’s head is too convenient. I admit this is not the best I have read from Nesser but for the reason mentioned above, I would gladly read his next crime novels when it is translated in English by Laurie Thompson. This novel is published 13 years ago, Nesser himself has a notably dry and ironic sense of humour, more redolent of the UK than Sweden, and intermittently makes London his home. The English speaking world in time will hear more of Nesser in the future.
Still a good read if you are a fan of Håkan Nesser’s crime novels but not his best.
Paperback. Length: 440 pages. Publisher: Pan Books 2012. Source: Reading Battle Library. Setting: Sweden. Finished reading at: 30th December 2012. Translated brilliantly from Laurie Thompson from Swedish.