A decade or so ago, when I wasn’t yet compiling moody sleuths, I read some of Hakan Nesser’s Scandinavian crime series: Borkmann’s Point, The Return and Mind’s Eye… not all at once, and likely in the wrong order due to the vagaries of translation. I remember enjoying them as police procedurals, finding lots to recommend the series: intricate mysteries, bloody crimes, suspense, dashes of humour, plus thought-provoking psychological aspects, but as for Nesser’s ‘troubled detective’… Van Veeteren left me cold… his abrasive arrogance just plain irked me.
Having more-or-less written him off, I didn’t keep track of additions to the series, new translations that is, and by the time I came upon Nesser’s books again this past year while looking for potential moody sleuths, I’d forgotten all about Van Veeteren’s ‘irksomeness’.
Prompted by Sarah Ward’s Top 10 Scandinavian Crime Novels in Translation I checked my local mystery bookshop, and Hakan Nesser’s Woman with Birthmark was the first to come to hand… I consumed it in less than a weekend… and went in search of more.
Not sure why my response to Van Veeteren had changed so drastically, but after realizing ‘hmmm… this guy seems kind of familiar…’ and waking up to my years-ago assessment of him, I gave it a ‘good think.’ Had Hakan Nesser deliberately tempered Van Veeteren’s abrasiveness over the course of four books?
But then it dawned on me… sometime in the past few years I’ve actually seen Van Veeteren in a different light… in a tv series thanks to BBC. It seems Swedish actor Sven Wollter’s gruff but calm portrayal of Inspector Van Veeteren cured my aversion. Far from finding him irksome, I now have some new adjectives for him: enigmatic, philosophic, introverted, some-what brusque, and yes, moody.
This brings to mind my experience with Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor series, how it was the audio versions that finally converted me. Sometimes it just takes another voice.
But back to Van Veeteren: I returned to the actual first in the series, Mind’s Eye, and have been progressing through them chronologically:
Woman with Birthmark
The Inspector and Silence
I’m in the midst of The Unlucky Lottery, and the next is on my ‘holds list’ at the library.
Hour of the Wolf
The Weeping Girl
The Strangler’s Honeymoon
The G File
I’ll definitely track down the last few, and soon, I hope, as this a crime series I’m quite content to read one book after another, without pause, unlike Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series.
One semi-sad note: The G File will apparently be the last of the Van Veeteren series… but ten books is a good run. Sjöwall and Wahlöö’s Martin Beck series was written to plan: “Ten years, ten books…”, Arnaldur Indridason’ Erlender series wrapped up in ten, (though Indridason has gone on to write Erlender prequels), and in Henning Mankell’s tenth, “Kurt Wallander is finished, once and for all.”
Ten outings with Van Veeteren should keep you in moody sleuth reading for a good while. Enjoy.