Archive for September 28, 2011

Bonger, Wauters, Leverkuhn and Palinski; four old codgers win 20,000 kroner on the lottery and decide to celebrate with a knees up in the smart restaurant area of the Capernaum. Leverkuhn gets very merry and quite drunk and slips under the table. Later Palinski and Wauters go home in a taxi, while Bonger and Leverkuhn have a little drunken argument outside the restaurant, and then walk home separately. 
When Marie-Louise Leverkuhn returns home after visiting a friend, and being stuck on a train because of a power cut, she finds the 72 year old Waldemar Leverkuhn dead stabbed twenty eight times. Leverkuhn’s drinking buddy Bonger has not returned to his canal boat, and is nowhere to be found, and then a few days later one of the Leverkuhn’s neighbours the formidable Else Van Eyck is reported missing by her husband. 
With Rheinhart on maternity leave admiring his new daughter, and Chief Inspector Van Veeteren on a sabbatical working in his antiquarian bookshop the investigation is lead by Munster, with assistance from Ewa Moreno, Jung and Rooth. Van Veeteren makes only fleeting appearances in the story, and it is if Hakan Nesser is paying some kind of tribute to Conan Doyle’s attempted break with Sherlock Holmes between 1893 and 1901, or those Martin Beck books where the great detective shares the limelight with his team. The story loses nothing by the comparative absence of the chief inspector, and this reader was pleased Van Veeteren was really enjoying his well earned rest. 
As a result we learn a lot more about Munster, and the strain police work puts upon his marriage to the lovely Synn, and his relationships with his young children Marieke and Bartje. While Moreno’s police work is affected by her desire to end her five year relationship with her unsatisfactory financial puppy of a boyfriend, Claus. 
The  reader follows the investigation as the bleak lives of the victim, his children and his neighbours are gradually exposed. The author’s cynicism and sometimes sarcastic humour had me laughing at times, and the accounts of what are fairly mundane lives were always kept interesting by glimpses into the detectives’ inner thoughts. The translation by Laurie Thompson expertly captures all the nuances of the humour which is such an important part of Hakan Nesser’s appeal.
Mussolini was lying on his back on the radiator, snoring.
Rooth had never seen a bigger cat, and purposely sat as far away on the sofa as possible.
In my opinion The Unlucky Lottery [original title Munster’s Fall, when published in Sweden in 1998] is one of the best books in the series, because it has an incident filled plot, red herrings and clever twists, a sardonic style that is a good fit for a detective novel, and plenty of intriguing characters. 
This is the sixth book in the Van Veeteren series set in Maardam, which may or may not be a city in Sweden, Netherlands, Germany , Poland or where ever in Northern Europe. But one certainty is that they set a very high standard and the series is a must read for me. 
Her second instinct was to take a hammer and batter the exercise bike that had been emitting its reproachful whining for the whole of her visit, but she managed to restrain herself. After all she did not have a hammer handy. 
I must thank the ever kind Maxine of Petrona [seen in the photo in deep discussion with Hakan Nesser at the 2009 Crime Fest in Bristol] for passing on her advanced reading copy. This was an uncorrected proof which means I should not quote anything without checking with the finished copy or the publisher. But I enjoyed the book so much that I hope I will be forgiven for quoting those few sentences that show a little of Hakan Nesser’s style ,and his irreverent and brilliant take on the police procedural. 
Reviews of the rest of the series: