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The Mind's Eye: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery 1 Paperback – 1 July 2009
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- Paperback : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0330492780
- ISBN-13 : 978-0330492782
- Dimensions : 13.1 x 2.7 x 19.6 cm
- Publisher : Macmillan (1 July 2009)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: 315,052 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the Author
Håkan Nesser was born in 1950 and is one of Sweden's most popular crime writers, receiving numerous awards for his novels featuring commissioner Van Veeteren. He started writing while working as a teacher. Håkan Nesser lives in Uppsala with his wife and two sons.
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I couldn't grasp why Mitter's lawyer says to him while he's on remand-"I don't understand why they won't even let you smoke" and then Mitter lights up a cigarette !! Made no sense in whatever language you're using ! There was a nasty mention of an insect, too.
After this, it just got silly. The mention of a headmaster's obsession with his DESK made me smile when it was first referred to but when I realised it wasn't meant as a joke I thought it was just dumb. Mitter describes a dream which was set in a room and he relates that the room threw him out of it. This brings to mind Rose Madder by Stephen King and was the juncture where we parted company when she managed to put herself inside a painting !! It's way, way too fantastical for me, then. We're then in a courtroom scene and Mitter tells the gallery that he'd admit to the crime if someone gives him a cigarette. He'd already been a wise-ass in open court to his detriment and it wasn't the least bit believable.
There was a bit of an issue with missed punctuation here as well. I'd spotted missed fullstops and speechmarks. There were no horrendous spelling mistakes as I see on a regular basis by English writers. I'll be passing on any more in this series, though.
I decided that the fairest course of action was to allocate 'The Mind's Eye' a 3 star rating, so other potential readers are not misled, whilst at the same time buying the next book in the series, so I can form a better judgement.
He’s convinced that he didn’t kill her but the police and courts are not.
Before the story is more than a third through we’re at the point where most police procedurals end – with his conviction and incarceration. But Van Veeteren, a detective prone to inspired insight and damaging depression, doubts the verdict… and then another killing sparks a full scale man hunt.
Sadly, the greater part of the rest of the book doesn’t live up to the promise of the earlier section, and gets bogged down in an awful lot of lists, numbers, alibis, cross-referencing and the like. There is such a thing as being a little too literal with the procedural aspect of the story.
Van Veeteren himself isn’t easy to engage with. He’s been given a range of quirky characteristics but he seems distant and aloof. Although we’re given a complete explanation of the story, it wasn’t clear to me how the great detective intuited all this information as the investigation occurred.
The prose is plain and unfussy, and this isn’t an especially long book.
It struggles to establish any sense of particular place or season and there’s little tension or drama. It’s ‘stolid Scandi’, lacking any great hook to draw me back for more. It was adequate, but not especially inspiring. So my first Van Veeteran novel may also be my last.
When schoolteacher Janek Mitter awakes with a blistering hangover, complete with throbbing eyes and a dry mouth, he is unsure of even his own name. He remembers nothing until he stumbles through the apartment and begins to recognise some memories of the place. Met by an urge to vomit he races for the bathroom and it confronted by the discovery of the dead body of his wife, Eva Ringmar, face-down in a bathtub filled to the brim. Mitter has no memory of his, if any, role in the events which have taken place but with plenty of empty alcohol bottles littering the place it seems that the previous night's intoxication is to blame. Recently married, Janek and Eva, both approaching forty are teaching colleagues at the local Bunge High School, and their marriage was a second chance at happiness. With a traumatic past, marked by the death of her young child and ensuing marital break-up, the obvious conclusion that Eva's murder is the work of her husband is quickly reached.
Largely because the matter is not that complex and seems a proverbial open and shut case, Mitter's fate it swiftly delivered. Pleading not guilty yet having no basis for forming any sort of defence, the prosecution produce a range of witnesses and colleagues who fail to convince Van Veeteren that Mitter has a track record of violent outbursts or the capacity to have carried out this act in such a callous manner. After intense questioning at his trial, Mitter is soon a shadow of himself, exhausted and anxious. His brutal frankness on the stand and general air of consigned resignation to his fate leaves him almost glad to return to a solitude of incarceration and a life behind bars. Frequently humorous when cross-examined, sometimes to the point of seeming facetious, his colourful testimony is met with a unanimous decision by the jury.
Convicted of manslaughter and sent to a secure mental institution in Majorna, his swift dispatch leaves Van Veeteren doubting the man's guilt. When a mix-up with his medication and multi-vitamins(!) allows Mitter's first memories of the fateful night to return, a flash of insight leaves him with the identity on the killer on his lips. Trying to call Van Veeteren and dispatching a missive to the true killer to let him know that his game is up, confusion at police HQ sees Mitter's message go astray and leaves the real perpetrator with a chance to act... Mitter meets his fate the following night, leaving Van Veeteren furious at the missed the opportunity to learn the killers true identity. With a second victim dead, Van Veeteren is left to conclude that the letter which Mitter sent must have been to one of the few addresses that he had committed to memory, limiting the possible locations. His workplace of twenty years, Bunge High School, seems to be the most likely destination but in a school of over seven-hundred pupils and a staff of approximately eighty-five, Van Veeteren's team of detectives have a job making inroads, especially given the mountain of daily post they receive. But Van Veeteren knows that the past never really stops haunting the present and as he continues to fumble for insights into Eva's earlier life he is confronted by the fact that the killer might have more than the blood of two murders on his hands. Over half of this novel focuses on the aftermath of Mitter's death and an awareness that a lacklustre investigation of the initial background to the situation had more than a hand in seeing the wrong party convicted. It is up to Van Veeteren to unmask the real perpetrator and see justice, albeit belatedly, prevail.
Nesser excels at characterisation and everyone of his investigative colleagues makes a significant impression, with the snappy dialogue giving readers a closer insight into the attitudes and perspectives of the individual investigators who number his team. Among the personalities working in his team, his sidekick and protégée is the slow-witted Inspector Münster, himself over forty-years-old. The rapport between Van Veeteren and Münster is particularly drawn well and the droll humour of Van Veeteren frequently leaves Münster standing, slow to cotton on to what appears so apparent to Van Veeteren. One particularly humorous memorable moment comes in the form of Van Veeteren delivering an insight into his thought processes to Münster, and summing up the Scandi noir genre in a rather tongue-in-cheek manner:
"A novel, a film, or a play, Münster - they are nothing but stuffed life. Life that has been captured and stuffed like a taxidermist stuff's a dead animal. They are created so that we can reasonably easily examine it. Clamber out of current reality and look at it from a distance."
Alongside the quirks of the team there is a wonderful overview to the back story of Van Veeteren and his rivalry on the badminton court with Münster and I look forward to seeing his progression as the series continues. Notably even with the secondary characters who feature in The Mind's Eye, attention to detail is second to none, from the headmaster of Bunge High School that hides behind his desk to the childhood friends of Eva Ringmar.
The location for the Van Veeteren series is the fictional town of Maardam, home to a population of 300,000 in Northern Europe, and generally inferred as being based in the Netherlands. Despite this lack of definitive setting, I assumed the culture adhered to the usual Nordic Noir attitudes, being slightly more liberal than the view prevailing in the UK. Beginning in October 1990, the emphasis in The Mind's Eye is much more along the lines of gut feelings and less fixated on the digital footprints of the victims, and the case has a curiously old-fashioned feel which suits this gentle introduction to Van Veeteren wonderfully. Despite this emphasis on leg-work the pace holds up exceeding well and is helped by the frequent bouts of dialogue at the team meetings, which always provide an opportunity for humorous insights and unspoken prejudices to be raised. Indeed one of the most humorous aspects of this novel is how quickly all of the team air their honest opinions and aspersions on the people they come across in the course of their work. With a dry humour laced throughout the pages, this first novel serves as the perfect introduction to the tenacious Detective Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, a man of advancing years which adds credence to his his tried and tested working methods and leaps of intuition.
Review written by Rachel Hall (@hallrachel)