Friday, October 5, 2012

The Mind's Eye, by Hakan Nesser

Inspector Van Veeteren is back, in this sequel to Borkmann's Point, and he is quickly becoming one of my favorite cops.  Schoolteacher Janek Mitter wakes up groggily after a night of too much wine to find his new wife dead in the bathtub and his mind a complete blank about what might have happened.  For the first part of the story, Van Veeteren is a mildly interested observer, but gradually is drawn into the affair and the investigations which follow. Again, the characters are vividly drawn and the plot is interesting, especially the routines which the police follow.  I am reminded of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct series; that set of novels, which extended over a half-century, was set in a ficionalized Manhattan but had the same realistic tone, as the detectives fuss and bicker, drink bad coffee, and struggle with all of the daily worries which contend with crime investigations for their attention.
But that was McBain (a.k.a. Evan Hunter) writing in English for an American audience.  Nesser is Swedish, blessed by a gifted translator, writing for lovers of crime fiction worldwide.  Every time I'm startled by a phrase or an apt description it takes a moment to realize what richness a good translation can provide -- Fred Vargas, writing in French, is another author similarly well supported.
One additional small aspect of these books which I find appealing: even though they take place in Sweden they don't have the atmosphere of cold and bleakness which sometimes accompany Scandinavian fiction.  I have the next Nesser in our book box in the truck waiting its turn, it's like knowing there is a box of cookies in the back of the cupboard.


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