Search This Blog

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The G File. Hakan Nesser (Writer) Laurie Thompson (Translation) Pan Books (2003)

A woman is found dead in an empty swimming pool, there is nothing to suggest foul play and nothing to suggest an accident either. There is just a body and a location. The complicating factor is the woman's husband, Jaan G. Hennan, a man Chief Inspector Van Veeteren has an unhappy previous knowledge of. An investigation fails to advance beyond the bare facts of the case. Fifteen years later  private investigator, who had been involved in the initial case, is reported missing by his daughter. Evidence suggests that he has solved the problem of of how G murdered his wife, and Van Veeteren emerges again from retirement to assist with the investigation into the disappearance. The story is moves through the two investigations as the first one haunts the second,the reveals are cunningly staged and the plot unfolds quietly right up to the entirely satisfying conclusion.
This book is much more about the cast than the mystery, although the mystery is a brilliantly designed one, action is never to the foreground. The cast are all given a lot of time to think, act and reflect on the investigations they are involved in as well as their lives. This gives the story an expansive and unhurried feel that allows the simple plot to naturally draw in the cast and never feel to frail.
The structure of the book is smart, each section is relatively self contained, they are centered on episodes fifteen years apart but the same cast grapple with a murder in each case and the ghost of the first investigation hangs heavily over the second. Hakan Nesser neatly deals with the weight of unfinished business and the effects of multiple pieces of unfinished business between Van Veeteren and Jan G Hennan complicates matters.
Van Veeteren is a great character, cranky and determined, he is both inside and outside of the investigation, an ambiguous situation that reflects the route of the investigation. There may have been a crime or not, the investigation may be chasing something  or it may be just trying to recover from past failures, when the situation is neatly and nastily resolved Van Veeteren is at the centre of the events. What Hakan Nesser does really well is to show how the rest of the cast are never that far behind Van Veeteren, they are getting to the same place just a little more slowly and the sense that the book is never a one man show. The extensive supporting cast are capable, competent and very engaging. The conversational style of writing that Hakan Nesser uses allows for the cast to sprawl across the investigation and include their wider lives without feeling that the book had lost a focus.
The translation by Laurie Thompson is transparent, this is very clearly a Swedish story, the use of Swedish terms is beautifully judged to support the Swedish nature of the story without ever locking out the reader. Thoughtful, deeply engaging crime fiction at its peak, a pleasure.

No comments:

Post a Comment