Macmillan, £16.99 Order for £15.29 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 0870 079 8897
Woman with Birthmark, By Håkan Nesser, translated by Laurie Thompson
At last – an upbeat Swedish cop
Tuesday 02 June 2009
Colin Dexter, the creator of Inspector Morse, has been showering encomiums on a younger crime writer: Håkan Nesser. Dexter has said that Nesser's Swedish copper, Inspector Van Veeteren, seems "destined for a place among the great European detectives". On the evidence of Van Veeteren's third outing, Woman with Birthmark, it's hard to disagree. The timing is good: the taste for crime fiction in translation is on a roll, with book charts in the UK and Europe showing breakthroughs for such writers as Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell. It's surely just a matter of time before Nesser joins this company.
Nesser's skills have shone in such books as The Mind's Eye, particularly in establishing Van Veeteren as one of the most distinctive of non-English detectives. Cheerful, well-read and sardonic, he's unlike other, more downbeat Scandinavian coppers – and his positive qualities (while a touch muted this time round) are more than welcome in the markedly dark narrative of this new book.
A young woman is given a grim deathbed revelation by her mother. Slowly, calmly, she begins to draw plans for a bloody campaign of revenge. Her first victim is shot at point-blank range, first in the chest, then in the groin. Within a fortnight, there is another victim, and Van Veeteren is up against a baffling crusade of slaughter. His task is made more pressing when it becomes apparent that there are a possible 30 targets in the murderous woman's gunsights.
If there's a caveat about Woman with Birthmark, it's that the dialogue does not read as idiomatically as in earlier Nesser books. Perhaps the admirable translator Laurie Thompson might have been more radical in rendering the Swedish dialogue into something that sounded more pitch-perfect in English. This is sterling fare, nevertheless, and one hopes that Nesser appreciates Colin Dexter's praise, rather than making it clear that he's here to sweep the old guard away.
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Ireland gay marriage vote: 'No' campaign appears to concede amid reports of 'yes' landslide victory
- 2 Purity balls: Girls in the US making virginity pledges as fathers vow to 'protect purity'
- 3 Picture of couple posing with beached dolphin 'that later died' causes outrage
- 4 16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
- 5 Arsenal fan asks the Queen for tickets to the FA Cup final - gets a reply from Buckingham Palace
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland