Posted: September 28, 2011 in review, Scandinavia, Sweden
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:
  1. Jose Ignacio says:

    Great review Norman, I’m more eager, if possible, to read the book now,

  2. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – An excellent review – thanks for sharing it. I’ve always liked Nesser’s humour, too, and nice to hear that he’s in good form this time. And it is interesting when another detective takes the lead in a case…

  3. Maxine says:

    Lovely review, Norman. Pity about that woman on the right in the picture 😉
    seriously, this is a very good series and has stood the test of time well, given the time that has elapsed since it was first published.

  4. I also enjoy the way Nesser highlighted some of the other characters in a couple of the stories.

    NB: lovely photo. I wonder what Maxine said to Nesser, though. He does look a bit concerned, doesn´t he? 😉

  5. kathy d. says:

    I love Nesser’s humor. Sometimes it throws me for a loop and I stop and laugh out loud and am just delighted.
    This post is reminding me to buy one of his books to share around so Van Veeteren gets even more fans.

  6. Norman says:

    Thanks Jose Ignacio I think you will enjoy this one.

    Thanks Margot, I love these teamwork novels after all my first introduction to Swedish crime fiction was the Sjowall and Wahloo series, and I used to read the 87th Precinct Ed McBains.

    Thanks Maxine. When you are feeling low getting praise from intelligent bloggers helps. I thought that photo was top draw, full of mystery. You both looked so serious. 😉

    Thanks Dorte. Yes it is rather good isn’t it; they were probably both worried by the mad bearded photographer in front of them.

    Thanks Kathy. Nesser’s humour is so clever because it masks the extreme violence. He has sold more than 5 million books worldwide but still isn’t that well known in Europe or the USA, so do share.

  7. kathy d. says:

    I have to buy a few used Nesser books and share them with friends who read global mysteries, just to help expand his readers over here. I don’t think friends of mine who’ve read Stieg Larsson. I’ve shared Nemesis by Nesbo with a few, but for them to read other Nordic authors, I have to loan them out.
    So I have to read library books quickly and loan them within the deadline or I have to buy used copies and share them — that is fun and rewarding, lots of book review discussions. I’ve sent around suggestions to read Jussi Adler-Olsen’s books.
    Nesser’s books aren’t popularized over here as much as Nesbo’s books are, and, of course S. Larsson’s books were promoted. I’ll do what I can among a few readers.
    Even though his writing is nothing like S. Larsson’s, book sellers and publishers should do more promotion in the States, including in New York City. Lots of readers here would like him if they knew about him.

  8. H.L. Banks says:

    I enoyed your review so much I went out and bought the book – absolutely loved it and am looking forward to reading the rest of his works. Thanks for the post.

  9. Norman says:

    I am glad the word is spreading about Hakan Nesser. I think we have four more Van Veeteren’s and then the Gunnar Barbarotti quartet. Us older fans need extra translators to be drafted in. 🙂

  10. […] Unlucky Lottery has been reviewed at Euro Crime (Maxine), Crime Scraps Review (Norman), The crime segments (NacyO), Reviewing the evidence (Sarah Hillary), and Nordic Bookblog […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s