Desperately lonely, sixteen-year-old Monica Kammerle has little idea of what she is getting herself into when she begins an affair with her mother’s latest partner; the sophisticated Benjamin Kerran . . . Months later, when a woman’s strangled body is found, the Maardam police must discover who has committed this terrible crime. It isn’t long before they realize the perpetrator may have killed before – and is likely to do so again. Meanwhile former Chief Inspector Van Veeteren finds himself drawn into the mystery when a priest, who has learned dreadful secrets, appeals to him for help. But when the priest falls beneath the wheels of a train and the police find more dead-ends than leads, it seems Van Veeteren will have to come up with a new approach to unearth this dark serial killer. Before he chooses his next victim . . .
It’s always such a treat being immersed back into Hakan Nesser’s carefully crafted world of detection and intuition, and with reading the whole series to date I am always left with a feeling after each, that the one just finished is now my favourite/the best of the series. The Strangler’s Honeymoon does little to buck this trend, as I will say confidently that this could now be my favourite/the best…
There is something hypnotic about the gentle ease in which Nesser immerses you in one compelling thriller after another, and the refreshing attitude that he brings to the genre that not all detectives need to be either (a) prone to ludicrous bouts of reasoning and actions that are implausible or thrusting them into laughably dangerous situations that stretch our credibility or (b) are overly encumbered with emotional baggage to make them more interesting or dynamic to the reader. Aside from Moreno’s natural cautiousness towards affairs of the heart, the central players in Nesser’s world are unerringly likeable, empathetic and effortlessly engage the reader in their personal and professional lives, inveigling us completely in their methods of detection and the natural progressions of their investigations. On the subject of character, as much as I enjoyed The Weeping Girl and the more central role played by DI Ewa Moreno, I’m sure I was not alone in slightly pining for the appearance or intervention of her mentor Van Veeteren, now spending his days surrounded by antiquarian books, but still eager to exercise the little grey cells of detection. Van Veeteren is an integral player throughout the novel, as a young priest troubled by a confession, wends his way to our retired detective’s door knowing of the man’s former reputation, drawing our old favourite into Moreno’s and her colleagues investigation into the murder of an emotionally unstable woman and the disappearance of her teenage daughter. Once again we see the steely mental cogs of Van Veeteren’s intuitive mind that aid his former colleagues’ investigation, but which are so inviting to us as readers as we are almost trying to solve the case at the same speed as our ardent detectives. The whole novel is tinged with the nuances of Van Veeteren’s wonderful character and his natural wit and intelligence and supplanted with clever little references to the literary world that aid his methods of deduction, and add additional points of interest to this wholly engaging tale of obsession and murder.
Nesser’s pacing of the plot is once again perfect, and the tying of the sunsoaked brutal opening scene to the final images of the novel provide a parentheses around the richly unwinding story of the life and times of a murderer, across split time frames, that unfolds gradually between the changes of location. This ebb and flow between different locations and periods is beautifully handled throughout, and Nesser’s depiction of a particularly manipulative and remorseless killer is truly chilling, with a nice play on the old adage, hell hath no fury….
All in all another completely satisfying addition to one of my favourite series, unhindered by the usual cliches of the Scandinavian/European crime genre, that as readable as they are have become almost de rigeur of this genre. A marvellous series indeed.
Håkan 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. Håkan Nesser lives in Gotland with his wife, and spends part of each year in the UK. http://www.hakannesser.com/
(With thanks to Sophie at Mantle for the ARC)