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First Van Veeteren Mystery
on 21 June 2009
This is the first in Hakan Nesser's Van Veeteren series, although numbers two and three, Borkmann's Point and The Return, were published before it in the UK.
The story opens as Janek Mitter wakes with a massive hangover and takes some considerable time to come to his senses, remember who he is, work out that he is in his own home, force his way into the locked bathroom and discover the drowned body of Eva Ringmar, his wife of three months. Unable to remember much of the events leading up to the murder and offer any defence, he is convicted of her murder and sent to a psychiatric institution.
Detective Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is the local police chief and, whilst he could find no reason in his interrogation of Mitter for him not to be charged, he is nonetheless unconvinced by the outcome and sets about further investigation, and so the case begins.
The writing style is recognisably Scandinavian, crisply narrated and with a classically tragic basis. The dialogue is believable, as is the story overall, and it is an easy read. However, I found Van Veeteren's supremely enigmatic and cerebral character difficult to establish any rapport with and his intuitive thought processes often impenetrably shrouded in obscure language. Meanwhile, his sizeable team of investigating officers offered plenty of scope to build a platform for future stories but were left more as a set of names rather than developing characters and, as the story concluded, I felt somewhat short-changed and unfulfilled.
That said, Van Veeteren's brooding mystery and Nesser's writing has the potential to establish their joint credentials in the varied genre of European detectives and I look forward to reading Borkmann's Point.