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The Inspector and Silence: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery (5) Paperback – 12 June 2012
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In this enthralling new addition to Hakan Nesser's acclaimed Inspector Van Veeteren series, the Swedish detective must crack a secretive and uncooperative religious sect in order to solve a string of brutal murders.When one of the Pure Life's members is found raped and strangled in the forest near the group's camp, the Chief Inspector is called to investigate. The Pure Life has chosen to remain silent about the incident rather than defend itself, so Van Veeteren's only lead is the anonymous caller who reported the body. As the unidentified woman continues to assist the authorities, her knowledge suggests she's more than just a passing Good Samaritan, but her tips become doubly perplexing as a new string of increasingly horrifying crimes defy everything Van Veeteren and his team thought they knew about the case.
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--The New York Times Book Review "Elegantly penned. . . . Thoroughly enjoyable. . . . [A] twisty layered tale that should keep even seasoned mystery fans guessing. . . . Just as Van Veeteren is no typical fictional detective, Nesser is no typical mystery writer. And The Inspector and Silence is no typical summer read: a Swedish vacation tale that visits the darkness with appropriate gravity but doesn't wallow in it--all the while managing to entertain."
--Cleveland Plain Dealer "A thrilling investigation."
--Newsweek "What's surprisingly refreshing about Nesser's writing, given the subject matter, is the wry humor and sarcasm of his characters, that and a storyline that will keep you riveted till the final page. . . . Where Jo Nesbø's approach is more physical, visceral, Nesser's Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is much more cerebral. A chess player and lover of classical music and art films, Van Veeteren is nevertheless a bit of a curmudgeon, world-weary and nearing retirement, not unlike Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander."
--San Antonio Express-News "Evocatively drawn. . . . A work of great moral complexity. . . . The clarity of Nesser's vision, the inner problems of good and evil with which Van Veeteren struggles, recall the films of Bergman."
--The Independent (London) "[A] riveting tale. . . . [Van Veeteren] is the perfect detective for the job--ploddingly thorough and cerebral, with keen intuition about the darker reaches of the human character."
--Minneapolis Star Tribune "This is stylish, atmospheric crime fiction with a strong moral core from an award-winning author; essential for readers of the genre."
--Library Journal "Nesser concentrates on character and relationships in his novels. . . . His latest moves along leisurely, giving readers the opportunity to savor the style of his hero without worries of international conspiracies lurking in the Swedish forests."
--Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "A taut and compelling mystery in a consistently outstanding series."
--Booklist "Satisfying. . . . Van Veeteren, disengaged, thinking of retirement and wonderfully enigmatic, makes an enjoyable change from all those fictional policemen who persist in taking their work home with disastrous consequences."
--The Guardian (London)
About the Author
Hakan Nesser was awarded the 1993 Swedish Crime Writers' Academy Prize for new authors for Mind's Eye, and he received the best novel award in 1994 for Borkmann's Point and in 1996 for Woman with Birthmark. In 1999 he was awarded the Crime Writers of Scandinavia's Glass Key Award for the best crime novel of the year for Carambole. And in 2010, he was the second recipient of the European Crime Fiction Star Award (the Ripper Award); the first recipient was Henning Mankell. Nesser lives in Sweden and London.
- Publisher : Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; Reprint edition (12 June 2012)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0307387240
- ISBN-13 : 978-0307387240
- Dimensions : 13.21 x 1.65 x 20.29 cm
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In the absence of his boss, stand-in Chief of Police in Sorbinowo is Merwin Klugge whose three-years service to date have amounted to little more than paper pushing and finds himself daunted by an anonymous caller reporting a disappearance of a girl from the summer camp that plays host to a religious sect by the name of the Pure Life at Waldingen. Enquiring and having his fears allayed Klugge thinks no more about the matter but consults Van Veeteren whose famous intuition leads him to assign a couple of days to running his eye over matters. Venturing out to the summer camp at Waldingen to take a closer look at just what is going on does nothing but incur the wrath of Van Veeteren when the long-haired and remarkably supercilious "priest" in the shape of Oscar Yellinek refuses to cooperate or even answer questions and refutes any claims of a girl being missing. Likewise, the three adult sisters who run the camp alongside Yellinek seem a similarly recalcitrant bunch, refusing to even confirm the names of the girls staying at the camp and Van Veeteren is faced with a wall of silence by the twelve teenage girls who make up the party with concerns over "betraying their faith".
Despite Van Veeteren's distaste for the Pure Life camp and his view that Yellinek is brainwashing the emotionally unstable girls who attend, the rumoured speaking in tongues, driving out of the Devil and sex rituals worries him more, but significantly none of that in and of itself amounts to a crime. However, Yellinek's previous brush with the law causes Van Veeteren to dig deeper into just what goes on at Waldingen. Chancing upon a friend of his chess partner's at the cinema, himself a journalist and learned gent by the name of Andrej Przebuda, Van Veeteren finds a man of enviable intelligence whose intention of reporting on the goings on at the camp the previous summer paints a keener picture of an unedifying setup with the cornerstone beliefs of "prayers, self-denial and purity" preached. More of a marathon than a sprint, this investigation sees Chief Inspector Van Veeteren descend on Sorbinowo before any crime has even been confirmed and with so little of substance to go, he is half minded to steer clear.. that is until Klugge's anonymous caller picks up the phone again out of frustration at the lack of police response and reports the exact location of a dead girl. Naked, placed against a tree trunk lies the body of Clarissa Heerenmacht, a girl of twelve raped and with her larynx crushed. Given that she is the self same girl that Van Veeteren spoke to just days earlier and the most outspoken of the group, how is he to interpret this if not an attempt to silence dissent?
Clearly not the first reported disappearance that the anonymous caller spoke of, Van Veeteren's intuition tells him that life in the Waldingen camp is not quite so idyllic as the Pure Life sect are eager to portray. Just as he starts to worry that there could be a previous girl missing, the "divine" leader Oscar Yellinek flees the camp before the police arrive, supposedly on a personal mission of mercy from the main man himself. With the three sister taken into isolation at a psychiatric hospital and the girls being supported by numerous psychologists, breaking through the wall of silence surrounding Yellinek proves an arduous endeavour. And even after the discovery of Clarissa's body there is still no proof linking the murder back to the Pure Life sect, leaving Van Veeteren with some serious thinking and a very short fuse.
Given the sensitivity in an age of political correctness where even venturing into an investigation of this nature is often cited as being nothing more than driven by groundless accusations and discrimination, Nesser draws this strand out astutely. Even Van Veeteren cannot help but compare how the psychologists and those assigned to looking after the minors act more like bodyguards and seem to work against the police interests of a thorough examination. Van Veeteren knows that the eyes of the media will be on the sensitive handling by the police and this certainly adds an urgency to just how much of strain the investigation proves to be. Nesser illustrates the frustrations that effectively handcuff the officers investigating and necessitates that they jump over hurdles alongside investigating. The discovery of a second girls body in a similar condition but evidently murdered prior to that of Clarissa Heerenmacht brings the full media circus to town and frustrated by the slow pace the angst of the investigating team is readily apparent and confirms a fear that the reported disappearance of ten days prior was accurate.
Some readers may find themselves frustrated by the length of time it takes for the investigation to come to a head and how difficult it is to prove a crime has been perpetrated in the hostile environment where speaking out is perpetuated by the myth of being a supposed betrayal of faith. Despite it slow-burning development this is a fine opportunity for Van Veeteren to showcase his analytical methods and to go about the case from different angles in order to tackle the root of the problem and when things aren't going well to trust his intuition. A brilliantly trivial detail holds the key to making the crucial breakthrough but faced with the two teenage girls brutally raped and strangled, can the legendary Van Veeteren really face another case of this nature?
I would not recommended The Inspector and Silence being read without some appreciation of what has gone before in the series as on balance readers could construe that Van Veeteren is an infernal moaner who doesn't really have too much to complain about. However, through the course of his prior outings regular readers will have picked up on his feelings of impotence and futility as a crime fighter seemingly resigned to awaiting the next impending fatality that winds up on his door. Increasingly despondent about his limited power in the grand scheme of thing perhaps it may well be time for the great man to ride off into the sunset or indeed an antiquarian bookshop! Another excellent instalment of a consistently high quality series.
Whatever the nature of the current investigation Nesser manages to mine a rich vein of dry humour throughout his narrative and despite unsettling events the character of Chief Inspector Van Veeteren manages to ruminate on his life and whatever else takes his fancy, something which ensures a quirky offbeat humour to spending time in his company. With Laurie Thompson being as familiar with the characters in play and the irascible Van Veeteren this superb translation brims with warmth.
Review written by Rachel Hall (@hallrachel)
Apologies for the length!!
One suspects HN couldn't possibly keep up with the brilliant writing he has done prior to this, so I'm just about to start The Unlucky Lottery (some editions are called Munsters Fall) in the hope that he is back to his best.
You don't have to read these books in order but as there is an ongoing thread, I would strong advise that you do.
Frustrating slow but so realistic its refreshing real people and pure plodding police work