Book review

30 day Book Challenge – A Book that Made You Laugh Out Loud

Day 26 – Håkan Nesser – The Mind’s Eye

“Van Veeteren was generally able to decide if he was looking the culprit in the eye in nineteen cases out of twenty, if not more.  No point in hiding his light under a bushel.”Birch tree

Such is the wry humour behind Swedish crime fiction novelist Håkan Nesser 1993 novel’s protaganist: Inspector Van Veeteran, (which has been ably translated from Swedish to English by Laurie Thompson), published in 2008.

This novel I have chosen to profile for Day 26, is philosophical at times, due mainly to comments raised by the alleged perpetrator, Janek Mitter’s, (a philosophy and history teacher). Comments which inspire the reader to ponder more about the nature of life and death. This occurs several times throughout the book, and is something rarely found in the crime fiction genre, and therefore, makes this author special.

The story itself, revolves around a disconnected innocent husband (isn’t it always the husband? according to ‘Harry Hole’), who is held to trial for the murder of his wife. He claims he is not guilty, his only pathetic defense is memory loss. In the novel, he wakes with a severe headache and an enormous hangover, and can’t remember any events of the previous night except that he finds his wife dead in the bath tub, (behind a locked bathroom door). Suspiciously, upon finding her, he cleans the flat and to add to his worsening prospects, he ridiculously claims in court, that he “will admit to everything if someone would give [him] a cigarette!

Despite this, Van Veeteran has reservations that he is the real killer and this is confirmed when, a month after Mitter’s imprisonment in a psychiatric facility, he is murdered. The dead wife, a sex goddess type with a dysfunctional family background is another real mystery, and the colleagues at the school where Mitter worked, seemed unwilling to support him in any way so his guilt seems obvious, except that he is also now dead.

“Eva Ringmar turned up in the fourteenth chapter of his life. Between pages 275 and 300, she played the role that overshadowed all others: the priestess of love, the goddess of passion, and then she went away, would probably continue for a while to live a sort of life between the lines, but soon she would be forgotten. It had all been so intense that it was preordained to come to an end. An episode to add to the plot? A sonnet? A will-o’-the-wisp? Finished. Dead, but not mourned. End of valediction. End of contradicton. No doubt this must be the state of shock that was driving his thoughts into such channels. That had crushed and demolished everything, made it impossible for him to grasp what had happened. To grasp what was happening to him….?

Van Veeteran’s tenacity comes from his belief in a “determinant” and this helps him solve this puzzling crime, even in the absence of leads.

It’s an unusual story, solvable but only in the dying pages of the book. The humour is apparent from page 1 and really sets Nesser’s novel apart from other crime writers. One cannot get enough of them, and it comes highly recommended.

If you are hoping to read about the real Sweden in these pages, forget it, as the locations are as mythical as the stories themselves! Still the Scandinavian genre of murder mysteries is evident in the wintry, cold rainy atmosphere so pervasive in this book!

The Good: Humour, in small to moderate doses that compliments the story and the philosophical touches

The Bad:  The frustration a reader feels when one’s instinct tells one that the wrong person will be jailed. And the tragedy that leads to the murder and depressing nature of institutional life.

The Ugly: The meaning of the title?

Rating: 9 out of 10

Here is a list of Nesser’s Van Veeteran series that have been translated, thus far:

1993 The Mind’s Eye translated 2008

1994 Borkmann’s Point translated 2006

1995 The Return translated 2007

1996 Woman with Birthmark translated 2009

1997 The Inspector and Silence, translated 2010

1998 The Unlucky Lottery, translated 2011

1999 Hour of the Wolf, translation 2012

The following are available but am not sure if that includes Australian bookstores at this point:

  • 2000 – Ewa Morenos fall English translation: The Weeping Girl, 2013
  • 2001 – Svalan, katten, rosen, döden English translation: The Strangler’s Honeymoon, 2013
  • 2003 – Fallet G; English translation: The G File, 2014

Nesser is the winner of the Best Swedish Crime Novel Award three times over and a Glass Dagger Award in 2000 for another book in the Van Veeteren series.

Nesser has written another detective series, none of which have yet been translated into English.

I have ordered the two more of his books from Amazon! Does that say something that I am pondering about?

Other entries worth reading:


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