Archive for November 25, 2013

51diL7EFSdL._A man, who is not identified, strangles his wife on a Greek Island and disposes of her body down a ravine. In Maardam a lonely 16 year old Monica Kammerle, who is unpopular at school, begins an affair with her mother lover. When Monica confides in Pastor Gassel, a priest with his own problems, he promises not to go to the police, but takes his concerns to retired Chief Inspector Van Veeteren. Unfortunately Van Veeteren, now running his antiquarian bookshop, has a dental appointment for a broken tooth [ah those problems with dentistry!] and is leaving the next day on a three week holiday with his girl friend, Ulrike. He does not have time to listen to to the priest, and when on his return home he hears that Gassel has fallen under a train he is suspicious. When Martina Kammerle’s body is decomposing under her bed Van Veeteren’s old colleagues investigate even questioning the Chief Inspector himself.

The Strangler’s Honeymoon is the ninth book in the Van Veeteren series and certainly one of the best. Sometimes you come across a book that is 600+pages long and yet you read it as speedily a 120 page novella. A novel that makes you actually glad you read crime fiction. A book with  appealing characters, a compelling plot, some delicious wit and humour, a few surprises and despite being originally published as long ago as 2001 in Swedish with the intriguing title Svalan, Katten, Rosen, Doden, a lot of up to date social commentary about western societies.

Hakan Nesser is one of the few authors who can successfully blend dry humour and the darker side of life in the same story. The reader is taken through the story from the slightly different perspectives of the investigating team; Rheinhart, Munster, Ewa Moreno and Rooth, with more interventions from Van Veeteren in his private investigator role than in the last few books. The personal lives of the team are varied and interesting, and we also get glimpses into the psychotic mind and the past history of the perpetrator; something I don’t usually like but it works rather well in The Strangler’s Honeymoon. The meticulous investigation goes on as those with any information or worries about missing friends are interviewed, and Moreno learns some fascinating facts of life.

And matters were not helped by the fact that when Anna Kristeva arrived ten minutes late, she turned out to be a woman more or less the same age as Moreno. She made no attempt to estimate the cost of the lawyer’s clothes, that wasn’t necessary. The situation was crystal clear already.

There are references to some of the most serious of modern society’s unsolved problems; neglect, loneliness, child abuse, sexual deviance, bullying, alienation, women’s vulnerability and the difficult search to find a sex partner who isn’t a psychopath.

‘He’d signed a prescription for her and phoned the pharmacy once or twice, when she had been in touch; but he says he hasn’t actually met her for a bout three years.’

‘Top class psychiatric care,’ said Rooth.

‘Brilliant,’ said Rheinhart. ‘But that’s not exactly anything new either. Medicine is cheaper than therapy.’

Hakan Nesser’s Maardam is a city with smart restaurants and smart women advertising for lovers, but is also a city where a body can lie undiscovered for a month. Set in an anonymous country in Northern Europe, where Van Veeteren interestingly claims not to understand Swedish, this is one of my favourite crime series and one that has maintained a uniformly high standard. I am very much looking forward to the next book in the series.

There was a murderer on the loose, that was the crux of the matter.

The whole point of a detective officer’s work was to ensure that there were no murderers on the loose.

My reviews of the rest of this superb crime fiction series:

The Weeping Girl