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.

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