Body count

As you rather come to expect with a Hakan Nesser thriller, there are an awful lot of bodies in The Strangler's Honeymoon. At least five, but almost certainly one or two more. As is also rather usual with Scandinavian Noir, it is a particularly dark crime novel; but also surprisingly enjoyable.

I love Nesser's Maigret-like detective, the likeable Chief Inspector Van Veeteren. Van Veeteren is now retired, and has found love and new enjoyment in life, spending time with his lover (met while investigating an earlier case), his grand-daughter, and supervising an antiquarian bookshop in which he is able to spend most of the day reading. An unfortunate accident forces Van Veeteren back into action when a priest comes to him for advice. Van Veeteren is just about to go on holiday and has broken a tooth, en route to the dentist he brushes the priest aside, promising to speak to him on his return. The priest however is never to meet Van Veeteren, as a week later he is run over by a train. What appears to be an accident or a possible suicide becomes more sinister when a series of gruesome murders become linked to the priest's death.

With a killer on the loose and no apparent way to tie the pieces together the Chief Inspector is forced back into action....

For all that Nesser's thrillers may be gruesome, there's a rich vein of gentle humour running through them. I especially love his gift for characterisation. Rather than concentrating on one or two detectives there's a big cast in a Nesser novel; more Z cars or Hill Street Blues than Morse or Sherlock Holmes. You might think that this would work less well in a book, but in fact the way that Nesser depicts each of the multiple characters in the police force, their strengths and weaknesses, their backgrounds and what they individually bring to the force is one of the real delights of the series. You're not just admiring the single detective but the way that everyone contributes to solving a difficult case.

Not only that you also have the voices of the (soon-to-be) victims, and the murderer himself. It should be confusing, but Nesser's skilful writing makes it all work brilliantly. Van Veeteren is one of my favourite detectives, and Hakan Nesser seems to be getting better and better.


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