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Hour of the Wolf by Håkan Nesser


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.

Rating: three and a half stars

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.

Other views

Eurocrime review 1 by Maxine Clark

Eurocrime review 2


About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


24 thoughts on “Hour of the Wolf by Håkan Nesser

  1. Håkan Nesser is a new name for me. I think I’ll have to start on his van Veeteren series soon, a good crime/detective sounds like exactly what I need (as opposed to all the non-fiction that I’ve started on)!

    Posted by Chinoiseries | January 2, 2013, 2:59 pm
    • Tze-Wen,
      My guilty pleasure read. Van Veeteren is quite old school but I look forward to read Andrea Carmelli’s Inspector Montalbano series. It’s on British TV now and I also bought a 3-ebook set so should be good to read! 🙂

      Posted by JoV | January 2, 2013, 3:36 pm
  2. I completely agree – I’d take Nesser or Mankell over Nesbo every time! Still haven’t read Hour Of The Wolf yet, but my Dad is reading it at the moment so hopefully I’ll take it out of his hands when he’s finished.

    Posted by Marie | January 2, 2013, 3:20 pm
  3. Jo,
    A woman after ny own heart – Scandinavian crime is my favourite guilty pleasure but I am selective! I have to agree that Mankell sits right at the top. His writing is stripped so bare that you can almost feel the sparseness in your bones,however I do have a soft spot for Harry Hole! Have you tried Sjowall & Wahloo? They were very influential in Mankells writing.

    Posted by Julie | January 2, 2013, 3:40 pm
    • Julie,
      I haven’t heard of Sjowall & Wahloo! Are they crime mysteries as well. Perhaps I came in at Jo Nesbo’s The Leopard. If I start at the beginning, I’m sure I will be more vested in Harry Hole. Mankell is like the Scandinavian landscape. Sparse, bare and bland after taste. Nothing explosive, but it’s ok for a guilty pleasure read!

      Posted by JoV | January 2, 2013, 3:45 pm
  4. Sjowall & Wahloo [husband & wife] wrote Swedish police procedurals in the 1960’s and they were really the first to start the whole thing off. Mankell wrote somewhere that he was very much influenced by their blunt and spare writing style. I tried the first in the series,Roseanna and you can really see Mankell in it. Jo Nesbo I really like as an author. I think if you get behind all the explosive,gory stuff he’s quite an intelligent writer. The Leopard was probably not the best to start on Jo he was definitely on gore overload! Some of the Icelandic writers [whose names I cant pronounce!] are ok too.

    Posted by Julie | January 2, 2013, 3:58 pm
  5. Goodness, you’re a blogging machine, how to keep up? 😉
    I’ve heard of Nesser, I think he is not unpopular over here, but haven’t tried his books yet. I like old-fashioned investigations, though I love the twist of the perpetrator as narrator. And he is running a bookshop? I’ll give Nesser a try, if I come across his books used or in the library!

    Posted by Bina | January 2, 2013, 7:15 pm
  6. I know what you mean about the end-of-the-year stress reading and trying to get everything read. That’s why I chose Murakami! I knew that either way, it would be a good choice for me and it was.

    Posted by Ti | January 2, 2013, 8:48 pm
  7. I agree, I really like Nesser and Sjowall & Wahloo are great. Mr G just finished reading the whole series and I’ve read four of them. Have you read Arnaldar Indriason? He’s Icelandic and another favorite.

    Posted by Gavin | January 2, 2013, 10:18 pm
  8. I hadn’t heard of this one, Jo. Thanks for bringing it to my attention! I love your reviews – did I say they are getting better and better and better? Like going from being brilliant to being really brilliant? To …:-)

    Looking forward to more from you this year.

    Posted by Soul Muser | January 3, 2013, 5:54 pm
    • Soul,
      I want to write reviews like you! I hope you read some Scandinavian lit soon. Although you did start with the “100-year-old man who climb out of the window” first!

      Have a great year!

      Posted by JoV | January 4, 2013, 9:56 am
  9. I’ve had an interest in him for a while but never got round to him as he is one of handful of turkish writers in translation and I must now try him his detective seems like a real character ,all the best stu

    Posted by winstonsdad | January 4, 2013, 9:32 pm
  10. I’ve just read this one – following your article on it. I enjoyed it greatly and will be writing about it tomorrow or Friday.

    Posted by acommonreaderuk | January 9, 2013, 10:53 pm


  1. Pingback: Review: Hour of the Wolf – Håkan Nesser « A Common Reader - January 10, 2013

  2. Pingback: Review: Hour of the Wolf – Håkan Nesser | A Common Reader - November 28, 2015

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

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Ten White Geese
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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