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Thursday, 30 January 2014

Review: Mind's Eye, Håkan Nesser (Sweden)

Title: Mind’s Eye
Author: Håkan Nesser
Translator: Laurie Thompson
Publication: 2009/New York: First Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
ISBN #: 978-0-307-38722-6
# of pages: 278
Discovered from having previously read his books
Read in paper format
Also available in audio format
Link to author’s website: Håkan Nesser 

Detective Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is usually confident about his cases. So why is this one leaving him with a niggling doubt about who murdered Eva Ringmar? It seems clear: her husband, Janek Mitter, was the only one in the flat and he is the one who found her dead in the bathtub. Even Mitter himself thinks maybe he did kill his wife of three months. 

Van Veeteeren is frustrated enough with his life; a wife who keeps leaving him and then coming back, his son in jail for drug smuggling, a sick dog left behind by a daughter who married and moved away, and a job from which he keeps trying to resign. He really doesn’t need such a frustrating case. His closest colleague and badminton partner Mϋnster doesn’t need Van Veeteeren any more difficult to handle than usual. But something about the case keeps drawing the inspector in and what seemed like a straightforward domestic murder soon becomes much more complicated.  

This story starts off from an interesting perspective: the crime and the resolution of Mitter’s court case, often the ending of a police procedural rather than the beginning. Van Veeteren is good at pulling on each little questionable string which begins the unravelling of the case. The clues are there, the reader can often keep pace with what Van Veeteren is seeing unfold but the author is effective at revealing the twists and turns in such a way as to keep you interested, and without revealing too much of the plot too early. 

The sentence noted below describes the book well and the author inserts a few examples along the way as well as reminding us of this statement in the very last chapter. In a number of chapters, the opening line is such that you are not immediately sure who is the subject but I found this added to the writing rather than being frustrating, especially since you quickly discovered who it was. 

However, the book does fall into what seems to be the most prevalent protagonist these days: grumpy disillusioned old policemen. Are there none who love their lives and can’t wait to get to work each day? As a reader, I find it tiring sometimes to see this type of character repeated over and over, no matter the author’s county of origin.     Rating: (^_°)  Intriguing

Notable sentence: “They would work for thousands of hours before the case was closed, and when they eventually had all the answers, it would become clear to them that nearly everything they had done had been a complete waste of time. They would realize that if only they’d done this or that right away, they would have cracked it in two days instead of two months.” 

Growing up on a farm in Sweden, the author worked as a teacher until 1998. His first book, an existential love story, was published in 1988 to critical but not sales success. Five years later, he published his first crime novel (English title: “Mind’s Eye”), introducing Commissioner Van Veeteren and the fictional town of Maardam. Six books from this series have been filmed for Swedish television. Ten novels later, he ended the Van Veeteren series and launched a new series about Inspector Gunner Barbarotti. After five books, he ended this series in 2012 although it appears none have yet been translated into English. He has also written non-series novels. Not someone who always yearned to be a writer, Nesser started writing at about age 35.

British academic and translator Laurie Thompson has translated a number of Swedish mysteries, including those by authors Henning Mankell and Åke Edwardson.

(sorry, no book cover this time! computer acting up!)

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Review: Blood Men, Paul Cleave (New Zealand)

Title: Blood Men
Author: Paul Cleave
Publication: 2013/New York, Atria Paperback
ISBN #: 978-1-4767-1087-7
# of pages: 329
Discovered at Sleuth of Baker Street
Read in paper format
Also available in e-book format
Link to author's website: Paul Cleave

Have you ever said something and then immediately wished you could take your words back? Edward Hunter wishes that more than most of us ever could. A good pre-Christmas day has turned very ugly and the next seven days will only get worse. Edward thought growing up as the son of an imprisoned serial killer was bad enough. Is he now about to become his father reincarnate?

It is difficult to say more about the plot without giving away any twists...which start immediately. It seems like every other chapter has an ending that you don't see coming, right up to the last one. I'm not usually fond of books written in the present tense but the author manages to avoid the jarring tone that approach often seems to have. Reading this so soon after Christmas made the setting even stronger. If you see the serial killer reference and feel you don't want to read "Blood Men", please ignore that feeling! If you like the roller coaster ride of a thriller, this is the book for you. I couldn't put it down. 
Rating: (°o°)!   Stayed awake all night to find out what happened!

Notable sentence: "It makes Schroder sick to know that on any given day your entire future can change."

Wanting to be a writer since primary school, Cleave started some novels in his late teens. A resident of Christchurch, New Zealand, he worked as a pawnbroker and renovated properties, then fifteen years ago, decided to focus on writing. According to his website, "...the (first) three books have an overlapping timeline, so some characters from one will appear in the other, and actions of one character will create problems for the other characters in other books." According to Fantastic Fiction, "...The Cleaner and Cemetery Lake both end on the exact same day. His fourth book picks up exactly where those two books end." Yet they do not need to be read in sequence. To date, Cleave has written seven books. I can't wait to read the rest.