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Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Return. Hakan Nesser. Pan Books. (2008)

An enjoyable, low key murder mystery with an enjoyably cranky lead investigator. A torso is found in a forest, it had been there for some months. It is finally identified as the body of a man who had served two separate prison terms for two murders, he appears to have been murdered himself the day of his release from prison on parole. The question of how those murders relate to his death are nicely opened up and as the questions regarding his guilt mount the stakes rise as the implications of his innocence start to become apparent. The plot is unravelled at a steady pace, the reveals are staged with skill and the investigation has depth and detail to it. The conclusion is fitting and harsh.

The cast are the real attraction in this book, the mystery is well structured, the investigative team, with the heroically cranky Chief Inspector Van Veeteren are a substantial pleasure. The book has an unhurried pace, the cast are given time to emerge as individuals and to establish a claim on the reader. The reasons why Leopold Verhaven was found guilty both times, why he had to be found guilty are carefully explored as is the impact of his guilt on the little village where he lived. By adding this wider context to the mix Hakan Nesser adds colour and texture to the story that are very important. This is a very skillfully written, thoughtful story.

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