Friday, 28 October 2016

Hakan Nesser's Van Veeteren

Hakan Nesser - Swedish author

As we head into a special 2016 Crime & Justice festival feature on Scandinavian writers of crime fiction (more information to follow shortly) I am revisiting authors and their works that grace my home library shelves. Hakan Nesser is perhaps not as well known in Australia as other Swedish writers but his work is worthy of inclusion in any discussion on Nordic Noir.

My introduction to Nesser's work was Borkmann's Point which was the first to be translated into English. The main character is Inspector Van Veeteren, a veteran detective who holds fast to his mentor's rule: Chief Inspector Borkmann believed there was a point at which more information on a crime is superfluous and the answer lies in what is already known.
Van Veeteren is on holiday in the coastal town of Kaalbringen when asked to help the local police investigate what seems to be the work of a serial killer. The local chief of police is about to retire and is more interested in a quick result than the correct result, however, Van Veeteren will not be dissuaded from a full investigation.

As more killings take place, he calls on his colleague Munster to come and join him and they begin to work closely with local inspector, Beate Moerk. Things take a dramatic turn when Moerk goes missing after leaving a message with Munster that she has uncovered something important in one of their reports. As they desperately search for Beate, Van Veeteren is left to wonder if she had reached Borkmann's point and whatever she discovered is the reason for her disappearance.

The series of books featuring Van Veeteren are set in an unidentifiable part of northern Europe while a later series featuring the Swedish Italian detective, Inspector Gunner Barbarotti, are all set in Sweden. In both instances, Nesser's main characters approach their work in a cerebral fashion, favouring detailed intellectual analysis over quick action or assumption-based conclusions.

Nesser has won the Swedish Crime Novel Award three times and has written ten Van Veeteren novels and five featuring Barbarotti.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Here we are in 2016 and about to convene the Crime & Justice festival

When I started this blog in 2012 I was aware of the growing interest in crime fiction from Scandinavia but did not think it would blossom as it has to now being a significant part of any crime fiction section in a bookshop and of my home library.

As I pen this blog, we have marked the twelve-month anniversary of the passing of Swedish crime writer, Henning Mankell.  His character, Kurt Wallander, is widely recognized as one of the most memorable of the genre and is known to a broad audience through the two television series, one featuring Kenneth Brannagh.

My first Wallander was Faceless Killers when it was translated into English in 1997. I had to import a copy as no Australian publisher had the rights to the work. The setting is an isolated farmhouse where the farmer has been tortured to death and his wife left with a noose around her neck. She later dies but not before she utters the word “foreign”. Wallander and his team set about investigating the crime and come face-to-face with the ramifications of the state’s attitude to immigration and national identity. As with all Mankell’s work, there is the opportunity to delve into Sweden’s political and social character and to ponder questions that have the power to divide nations.

As is often the case with crime writers from this part of the world, was politically active and imbued his work with a sense of social commentary. This is part of the attraction for me of Nordic Noir – the deeper, more complex rendering of the society in which the action takes place and against which the characters are set.

Another feature of Mankell’s series of crime novels was the introduction of Linda Wallander, Kurt’s daughter, as a policewoman. I found this sideways tilt from father to daughter as main protagonist to be executed extremely well; the character of Linda was as expertly drawn as that of Wallander himself.

I had the good fortune to meet Henning Mankell on one of his visits to Melbourne and it remains a highlight of my bookselling career. 

I convene an annual Crime & Justice festival in Melbourne and am using this most recent blog as a lead-in to the November event this year and a way of regularly blogging on my favourite form of reading.

For more information about the crowdfunding campaign we have going for the tenth anniversary Crime & Justice festival, please visit: