Borkmann's Point: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery
If Harry Bosch Were Swedish
A review by Anna Godbersen
Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, the hero of Swedish crime writer Hakan Nesser's
Borkmann's Point is an oenophile and a chess connoisseur and does not,
at a glance, have a whole lot in common with his American counterparts. As a detective,
his strength is not of the physical or logical kind; his intuition, much deeper
than the basic hunch, is an almost mystical tool. (A newspaper runs a photo of
him in a position that suggests, "a mummy or a yogi sunk deep inside himself.")
But he does have that familiar Oedipal back-story -- a child on the other side
of the law -- and in this case it may just help him relate to a murderer on the
loose. Or rather, an ax wielding maniac on the loose. Van Veeteren has been called
into the sleepy seaside town of Kaalbringen, to assist the local police in the
investigation of two murders by ax, soon to be followed by a third. The local
force -- with the exception of one exerholic female cop -- is dopey and in the
habit of eating Danishes during meetings, but Van Veeteren fits in well enough.
He likes Danishes, too, and soon strikes up a gentlemanly friendship with Chief
of Police Bausen, and they manage games of chess over bottles from Bausen's wine
cellar in between interrogating locals about a case that seems to have no leads.
In the end, intuition beats out leads, and in the place of a labyrinth of clues
and false starts there will be one simple and satisfying twist.
The Van Veeteren series is a hit in Europe, and Borkmann's Point is the first of Nesser's books to be translated into English. It is spare and wry, short on cliffhangers and long on atmospherics. It sucked me in, despite all that.
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