Archive for January 18, 2009


Janek Mitter, after a night of heavy drinking and lovemaking, stumbles into his bathroom to find his beautiful wife of only 3 months Eva floating dead in the bath. Mitter’s problem is that he cannot remember anything except making love and falling asleep.

Chief Inspector Van Veeteren questions Mitter at length and at some stage he is sure Mitter will start to remember what happened but when will that be?  

This is the first book I have read by Hakan Nesser and my excuse is that I have been waiting for The Minds’s Eye [or The Wide Mesh Net in Swedish ‘Det grovmaskiga natet’] the first book in the ten book Inspector Van Veeteren series to be published in English. too many times have I found myself reading Nordic books out of order.
Numbers two and three Borkmann’s Point and The Return have already been published and number four Woman with a Birthmark is to be published later this year therefore I will be able to follow the series as it was meant to be read. 
The Van Veeteren series is set in the fictional town of Maardam population 300,00 in a unspecified Northern European country like Sweden, Poland, Germany or the Netherlands.

I assume the fact that it is a ten book series is a tribute to the ten books in the great Martin Beck series. 
There is an interesting interview with Hakan Nesser here at Detectives Beyond Borders.

The Mind’s Eye won the Basta Svenska Debut in 1993, and Hakan Nesser is the only author to have won the Swedish Best Crime Fiction novel three times in 1994, 1996 [beating Henning Mankell], and 2007.
He was also nominated in 1995,1997,1998,1999, 2000, and 2001, a very formidable record. 

I really enjoyed reading The Mind’s Eye which is both a psychological thriller and police procedural rolled into one with a nice twist in the plot at about the midpoint of the story. Anyone who thinks Swedish crime fiction is all darkness and gloom has not read Hakan Nesser because in this novel there is a juxtaposition of the police investigation of a murder contrasted with some withering deadpan humour. The crimes are terrible but the narrative includes some humourous episodes and the almost lighthearted dialogue between the detectives breaks the growing  tension. I would think that police officers who have to deal with horrific crimes have to cope with it in this way.

‘Our teachers are women, our house matrons are women, our school caretakers, our gardener, our kitchen staff- all of them are women. I’m the headmistress and I’m a woman.’…….
Van Veeteren nodded and tried to sit upright. He had a pain in the small of his back, and what he wold really like to do was lie on the floor with his legs on the seat of the chair, that usually  helped. But something told him that Miss Barbara di Barboza didn’t like men lying on the floor of her study.

The sullen cynical Van Veeteren has a team of dedicated police officers to help him; Munster, his badminton partner, Reinhart, Rooth, deBries, Jung and Heinemann, his flock.

But in any case, his collection of police officers was not a particularly impressive bunch to be honest. 
Not something to line up for a live broadcast, he thought.

Van Veeteren, who listens to Bach and Julian Bream, likes his solitude to think about the psychology and motives behind the crimes in order to work out the solution. He tries to instruct the slightly naive Munster in his method and make him think systematically.
Naturally Van Veeteren is estranged from his wife, this is almost compulsory for Nordic detectives with the notable exception of Irene Huss

Despite his disillusion with his job and the seriousness of the crimes he is investigating Van Veeteren seems to have the ability to laugh at his situation and that is what gives this book that extra sparkle and makes it very readable. 
I hope to read the other two translated Van Veeterens before Crime Fest in Bristol when Hakan Nesser will be one of the guests. 


Posted: January 18, 2009 in Uncategorized