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The Inspector and Silence Hardcover – 14 June 2011
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Digital, Unabridged, WAV
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- Publisher : Pantheon Books (14 June 2011)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 284 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0375425233
- ISBN-13 : 978-0375425233
- Dimensions : 16.21 x 2.9 x 24.28 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