1994. (In English 2006.) Received the 1994 Swedish Crime Writers Best Novel Award. Thanks to Stieg Larsson for the flurry of translations of Nordic crime writers.
Inspector Van Veeteren is a thinking man’s crime solver. He goes quiet, almost meditative, when he’s on to the solution, when the pieces so neatly fall into place and he strategizes his arrest. His underlings know to leave him alone when he slips into such a mood.
While Van Veeteren is on vacation in the north of Sweden a couple of gruesome ax murders occur in a nearby coastal village. Of course he’s called on to interrupt his less-than-perfect personal down time. His personal life apparently isn’t that great. He could use the change of scenery.
Van Veeteren takes the assignment and immediately forges a bond with the soon-to-retire chief of police of the village. The two men discover a mutual love of chess and keep each other apprised of progress over the chess board while sipping fine wine from the chief’s cellar.
The clues to the case are few, other than the bodies dispatched so cleanly with a single blow to the neck, and there seems to be nothing linking the victims. Pressure builds on the police to catch the killer and gets worse with a third victim.
Borkmann’s Point: That point in an investigation when enough information has been collected and beyond which new information only blurs the vision of the solution. One of Van Veeteren’s challenges: determining when he reaches that point.
Well-drawn and sympathetic characters, a strong sense of place, and an easy flow to the narrative. I have to admit that I spotted the red herrings early and had my eye on the killer about mid-way through but I still enjoyed the way the tale built to its satisfying conclusion.
Thank you Stieg.