Mind's Eye, by Hakan Nesser
Mind's Eye is actually the first of the books Hakan Nesser wrote in the Inspector Van Veeteren series. Finally it is available in English. Thus, for readers loving this series from one of Europe's best-selling crime writers, it becomes possible to go back to the start of it.
Murder cases were never as open-and-shut as the one in Mind's Eye: Janek Mitter wakes one morning with a brutal hangover. He can't remember anything from last night - for a moment he can't even remember his own name.Then he discovers, behind the locked door to the bathroom, his wife of three months - Eva Ringmar - lying face down in the bathtub, dead.
Chief inspector Van Veeteren has his doubts about the case and searches for more evidence. However, with only the flimsiest excuse as his defense, Mitter is found guilty of a drunken crime of passion and imprisoned in a mental institution.
But Van Veeteren’s suspicions about the identity of the killer are borne out when Mitter a little later also becomes a murder victim. Now the chief inspector launches a full-scale investigation of the two slayings. More and more he feels that finding the solution involves finding out the secrets of the dead - in particular that of Eva Ringmar. As it turns out, finding out more about her is much more difficult than anticipated. A mysterious letter that Mitter wrote shortly before his death plays a prominent part in this.
Mind's Eye is an excellent crime book by Hakan Nesser. He captured me after only a very few pages, less than ten! And held me there. All the way through the book I was one small step behind van Veeteren it seemed. And all the while my sympathy for him as well as the suspense were building. Watching Chief Inspector Van Veeteren connecting the dots in this delicately woven plot was great. So is Hakan Nesser's subtle humor, that runs throughout the book. A top read! The best of Hakan Nesser's books so far, I think!
The Inspector and Silence, by Hakan Nesser
This is the fifth novel in the Van Veeteren series by Swedish crime fiction writer Hakan Nesser. I am happy to see it finally translated into English, but even so it is sad that it has taken 13 years to get to this point. Kommisarien och tystnaden, as it is called in Swedish, was originally published in 1997!
Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is a wonderful, very interesting protagonist. He is a man guided by his intuition and never allows an investigation to interrupt his enjoyment of good beer, wine or food. He firmly believes he can solve every case laid before him, and that in every criminal investigation there are many, many alternative ways to reach the solutions. As he says (my translation):
”There are no coincidences, said the Chief Inspector. – This was just one road to the solution. There are hundreds of other possible roads. If life is a tree, it doesn’t have to make any damned big difference whether one lands on one branch or another … in order to find the root, that is. Or wherever one is going.”
When we meet up with the somewhat philosophical and chess playing inspector in The Inspector and Silence, he is about to make two huge decisions, both requiring deep thinking in the heart of summer. The first is whether to go to Crete on a summer vacation. The second is about his job: Should he quit and buy a partnership in a used book store in the neighborhood?
His pondering is disturbed when the police receive a call from Sergeant Merwin Kluuge up in the beautiful forested lake-town of Sorbinowo. Kluuge’s tranquil existence has been shattered by an anonymous woman reporting the disappearance of a girl from the summer camp of a religious sect calling themselves Pure Life. The chief inspector agrees to investigate the case, and heads off in his car to the small town of Sorbinowo.
However, the slow-moving investigation by the vastly talented chief inspector quickly leads to nowhere. When he visits the Pure Life camp, he is met with a wall of silence. The strange priest-like figure who leads the sect - Oscar Yellineck - claims that they have no missing girl - all are accounted for and present. So do all the other participants Van Veeteren interviews. It is clear to Van Veeteren that they have been instructed not to tell him anything and, indeed, even to not talk to him at all if it can be avoided. Even so, there is no dead body and seemingly there is no missing girl either.
“She finally found the body long after the sun had set. Darkness had begun to spread through the fir trees, and for one confused moment she wondered if it wasn't just an illusion after all...”
Then the anonymous woman calls again. This time she tells the police the location of the body of a dead girl. When the police find the thirteen year old girl, she has been tortured, raped, murdered and left naked in the forest.
But things do not quite add up: The dead girl is one of the girls Van Veeteren met when he visited the camp. Is there another dead girl somewhere? Who is the anonymous woman? How did she know? And – as one more of the girls are found in the same condition: How can the police stop the killings? The leader of the religious sect has disappeared too, and everywhere there is silence – the members of the sect will not talk. Finally Van Veeteren draws the conclusion that in order to solve this very disturbing case, with all its silence and very few clues, he will have to once more rely on his intuition.
This is another excellent book in the Van Veeteren series. It is well plotted and suspenseful. And, as the other books in this wonderful crime fiction series, it is also humorous and superbly written.
Münster’s Case, by Håkan Nesser
Münster's Case (aka The Unlucky Lottery) is the sixth book in Swedish crime fiction writer Håkan Nesser’s excellent series about the grumpy, eccentric and brilliant Chief Inspector Van Veeteren. In this very intelligent mystery, Nesser has chosen to sideline Van Veeteren a little.
The book-loving and somewhat philosophical Chief Inspector is on sabbatical, and works in a second hand book store. Van Veeteren still views himself as a detective who can solve any case assigned him – as possibly the greatest detective ever. But he feels that he has seen too much evil and brutality – he simple cannot face it every day of his life anymore. So when Waldemar Leverkuhn is stabbed to death, the case is assigned instead to his patient and persistent, but not quite as smart assistant, Inspector Münster. This is why in the US the book is entiteled Münster's Case.
The backdrop for the murder is that four elderly friends have won a fairly large sum of money in the Dutch lottery (thus the UK title The Lucky Lottery), and gone out to celebrate their luck with a little something to eat and a lot to drink. Then, just a few hours later, at 2 am, one of them – Waldemar Leverkuhn – is found in his home, brutally murdered. He has been stabbed to death; actually he has been stabbed 28 times. Soon another of the lucky winners disappears too.
The investigators think perhaps one of the two survivors has decided to kill two of the other winners in other to increase the size of each share of the winning pot. But they fail to make any noticeable progress in the case. And even though this is Münster’s case and his chance to prove himself, he realizes that he has to go and ask Van Veeteren for help.
Van Veeteren listens to the story, and promises to ponder it. Which he does. And as often is the case, he sees something that has been overlooked – an element that may point in an entirely different direction. And soon Münster finds himself digging deeper and deeper into the personal history of Waldemar Leverkuhn, where he discovers dark secrets that complicate the case and endanger his very life.
Håkan Nesser is a wonderful writer, and while Münster’s Case (aka The Unlucky Lottery) is perhaps not the best book in the outstanding and very special series about the intriguing and elusive Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, it is still a great and very entertaining crime fiction novel. The plot is very good, smart and with some very nice twists and turns. But most of all, it is the fabulous storytelling and the understated humor that makes this book stand out from the crowd. This simply is great crime fiction.
Other reviews of Münster’s Case (The Unlucky Lottery):
‘an intriguing plot that keeps twisting right to the very end...The Unlucky Lottery sees Nesser paint a colourful picture of police life and a gripping story of revenge served very cold indeed’ --Edinburgh Evening News
'Nesser is one of the best of the Nordic Noir writers, unafraid of moral ambiguity and excellent at building a brooding atmosphere' --The Guardian
`Nesser's typically quirky The Unlucky Lottery demonstrated that the author's idiosyncratic skills were still firmly in place.' --The Independent