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Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Mind's eye. Hakan Nesser. Laurie Thompson (Translator). Pan Books (2009)

A hugely enjoyable and mordantly funny crime story. Janek Mitter awakes from a drunken sleep and finds his wife murdered. He has no memory of the night and no idea what happened to his wife. He is sent to an asylum for assessment and a fragment of memory returns. He is murdered in his cell. Detective Chief Inspector Van Veeteren investigates the two murders, sure that the key lies in the past of the murdered woman. The investigation uncoils at a steady pace, the plot threads are cleverly played out, the reveals very well staged and the conclusion equally sad and satisfactory.
DCI Van Veeteren is a superbly cranky and compelling character. He is a competent and professional policeman who is deeply committed to his work. He has a natural depth of perception allied to considerable experience that makes him impatient with his colleagues and frequently with himself. The rest of the cast are well developed, Van Veeteren does not dominate the book. The rest of the police are allowed to be competent and effective, they are critical to the investigation. Janek Mitter is a very engaging character, he is given a complicated and credible response to his situation and a sharp and resilient approach to dealing with it. His trial is very cleverly constructed and brilliantly written set piece. The least developed character is the killer, trapped by past events and compulsions, there is little scope for development.
Hakan Nesser has written the book with a sardonic tone that is a pleasure to read. The action is framed with snarky editorial comments that do not either overwhelm the action nor throw the reader out of the story. They are a flavoursome addition to the story, they add strongly to the telling. Superb.

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