One of my favourite Scandinavian noir writers is Hakan Nesser, the creator of Inspector Van Veeteren. In my imagination Van Veeteren is the Nordic equivalent of Inspector Clouseau in looks but with a good deal more intelligence.

All of the Van Veeterens I've read so far have been well written and constructed murder mysteries with a sly sense of humour. They combine the best attributes of Wallander and Inspector Montalbano; so it seems a shame to me that they don't seem to be generally as popular as their better known European counterparts.

The Inspector and silence is the fifth in the series, but is easily accessible even if you haven't read any of the previous books. Van Veeteren is very much his own man, so you don't need to know an intimate family history or his cooking habits before immersing yourself in this thriller. Kluuge, a young upwardly-mobile policeman is left in charge of a country station when his superior goes on holiday. Superior's parting comment is to contact Van Veeteren if there are any problems. A series of mysterious phone calls and the discovery of a teenage girl's body, raped and murdered, means that there's a very big problem, and Van Veeteren's expertise is needed urgently. With a strange cult unwilling to divulge any information, and a renegade priest on the loose the crime needs to be solved quickly before there are further deaths.

Most of this book I enjoyed very much. As usual Van Veeteren is his lovable self; there is much in the way of black humour, and the camaraderie between the police officers is well presented. However I don't think this is the best in the series by any means. The solution to the crime is presented by a pure fluke. This may well happen in real life too, but it doesn't really work in the context of a novel. Which is odd because much of the novel is a reflection on what happens in life, and what would happen in an equivalent novel.

Having said which it deals very cleverly with prejudice. Most readers, I would suspect, would share in the prejudices shared by the police and the townsfolk. No spoiler alert necessary here as whether that prejudice turns out to be correct or not, I leave that up to the next reader of The Inspector and silence.


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