Winnie Maas died because she changed her mind . . . A community is left reeling after a teacher – Arnold Maager – is convicted of murdering his female pupil Winnie Maas. It seems the girl had been pregnant with Maager’s child. Years later, on her eighteenth birthday, Maager’s daughter Mikaela finally learns the terrible truth about her father. Desperate for answers, Mikaela travels to the institution at Lejnice, where Maager has been held since his trial. But soon afterwards she inexplicably vanishes. Detective Inspector Ewa Moreno from the Maardam Police is on holiday in the area when she finds herself drawn into Mikaela’s disappearance. But before she can make any headway in the case, Maager himself disappears – and then a body is found. It will soon become clear to Ewa that only unravelling the events of the past will unlock this dark mystery . . .
Another one for you Scandinavian crime fiction fans from the consistently superb Hakan Nesser. The Weeping Girl sees ex-Chief Inspector Van Veeteren’s protege DI Ewa Moreno take the reins in this intriguing investigation, following the time honoured tradition of crime fiction protagonists unable to take a holiday without being immersed in a murder mystery…
It’s always difficult I would think to introduce a convincing new character from the shadows of such a compelling figure as Van Veeteren who has been at the heart of Nesser’s previous books, but he achieves this with aplomb. Using Van Veeteren as her point of reference in her machinations of this perplexing case, his voice can still be heard loud and clear, and Moreno soon proves herself to be an able protege of the now retired detective. Moreno is an assured combination of dedicated and compassionate police officer, cut through with the normal doubts of a woman in the throes of a new relationship with..well…in Moreno’s words ‘bloke/lover/stallion’. This is indicative of the humour that cuts through the plot with Moreno as queen of the apt aside to relieve the tension of this disturbing case, and as in Nesser’s previous books, these forays into the realm of humour are balanced perfectly. The characterisation is excellent throughout, with Moreno clashing horns with the utterly inept, and ‘stiff-collared pain in the neck’ local police chief Vrommel, but finds an ally in the charming and intuitive detective Vegesack, who more than proves his worth in terms of his dogged determination to get to the bottom of this case taking some degree of delight in ticking off his boss.
The plot mores than support Nesser’s assured characterisation, opening with a young girl’s mission to talk to her father having discovered his true identity on her eighteenth birthday. The only kink in her plan is that he is a murderer, incarcerated in a psychiatric unit, having been accused of killing a teenage girl some years previously. However, after meeting her father she disappears and so the intrigue begins. Moving fluidly between the earlier events leading to her father’s incarceration, and the real-time investigation of her disappearance with the unveiling of dark family secrets, Nesser effortlessly leads us through the case, with his trademark attention to procedural detail. Admittedly stalwart crime readers may cotton on to how the plot will play out but, bolstered by the fine characterisation and a cameo appearance by the great Van Veeteren himself, there is more than enough to satisfy the reader and I have no qualms in recommending this as a good read overall.
Hakan Nesser is one of Sweden’s most popular crime writers, receiving numerous awards for his novels featuring Inspector Van Veeteren, including the European Crime Fiction Star Award (Ripper Award) 2010/11, the Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy Prize (three times) and Scandinavia’s Glass Key Award. The Van Veeteren series is published in over 25 countries and has sold over 10 million copies worldwide. Hakan Nesser lives in Gotland with his wife and spends part of each year in the UK. The Weeping Girl published in the UK 25/3/13
(With thanks to Mantle for the ARC)