Friday, May 20, 2011
Woman With Birthmark. Hakan Nesser. Laurie Thompson (Translation) Pan Books (2010)
Vivid and compelling crime story that has smart structure,superb cast and powerful emotional undertow. A man is shot and investigation reveals that he had received odd phone calls prior to his murder, when a second man is murdered in the same way and having received similar calls the police struggle to find the connection and the killer. As the police investigation proceeds two other men realise the the cause of the deaths and the fact that they too are in danger, unwilling to involve the police they plan their defences. The reveals are superbly staged, the various strands of the story are brilliantly drawn together to a bitter and satisfying conclusion.
The most striking aspect to the story is the way Hakan Nesser solves the story problems in deeply satisfying and unpredictable ways.Two of the cast know they are being hunted and they know why, this does not release the tension as surprise murder becomes a deadly battle of will and wits. The police investigation is thoughtful and competent, it drives the story as a nearly random factor in the deadly duel between the hunter and the hunted.
The cast are vivid and sparkle with life, all of them are given the space to emerge as fully fledged characters, the reader becomes involved with them all. Inspector Van Veeteren has a cranky forcefulness that is entirely engaging, the woman who finally finds a life purpose in revenge is brilliant, believable and finally, truthfully unheroic. The men she hunts are discovering that actions can have consequences very much after all thought of them had gone, they struggle to understand just how utterly their lives have been torn asunder. A must read.