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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!)

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