picked this book up from the library shelf of "paperback picks".
It sounded like an interesting mystery: Nesser is an internationally bestselling author
who won a bunch of awards in Sweden, including an award in 1994 for Best Novel for Borkmann's
Point. This book was okay, but I find it hard to believe this book was a Best Novel, it seemed
like an average mystery to me. (The average mystery is usually a pretty decent book. It is amazing
how many good mystery writers are out there. Perhaps because so many people are vying to be mystery
writers, the bar must is set pretty high for any new author trying to get published? It seems to me
that the worst mystery is better than the hack novels published in the other genres.) This book is okay,
but it didn't seem worthy of winning awards. Perhaps
something was lost in translation?
Detective Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is on vacation in the small resort town of
Kaalbringen when a gruesome murder occurs - someone strikes Ernst Simmel with an ax, hitting him
so viciously that he is practically decapitated. Unfortunately, just a few weeks ago, a man named Eggers
was also dispatched with a brutal ax blow. Is a murderous ax-man suddenly on the loose in Kaalbringen?
The local chief of police, Bausen, and his assistants Beate Moerk and Kropke, ask for Van Veeteren's
help in solving the crime - Van Veeteren has a reputation as an expert detective, solving the most
baffling cases, and he always gets his man. (The characters make reference to an unsolved case a few
years back, implying that Van Veeteren has had a perfect record since.)
One thing I didn't like about this novel was that the author hides information from the
reader that the characters know. Near the end of the novel, when Van Veeteren gathers crucial evidence about who the axeman
is, the reader is not priviledged to know what Van Veeteren discovers - all we are told is that Van Veeteren reads some
old police files and then he makes some phone calls that confirm his suspicions. This seems like an unfair way to
withhold the identity of the killer so as to build suspense for the final unmasking.
As the investigation continues, Kropke, a female detective on the force, makes a discovery
- but again the reader is not told what it is. This leads to her kidnapping by the axeman. Suspense builds
as the remaining investigators try to free her - but when all is revealed, the kidnapping doesn't make
much sense at all. Why would the axeman do that? Just so he can explain to the shackled Kropke why he his committing
these horrible deeds? Bad guys always seem compelled to confess.
This is an okay novel, but I can't see why it would be an award winner. I don't think I
will pick up any more books by Nesser.