Borkmann's point : an Inspector Van Veeteren mystery

by Håkan Nesser

Hardcover, 2006





New York : Pantheon Books, 2006.


"An ex-con is brutally murdered with an ax in Kaalbringen. Then the body of a wealthy real estate mogul is found, also the victim of a violent attack. There appears to be a serial killer on the loose, and Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is called in to help the local police. In his storied career he has only left one case unsolved, but he's never before faced an ax murderer. As details surrounding the grisly murders are collected, Van Veeteren finds that there is almost nothing to go on; nothing links the two victims. But then there's another murder, and shortly thereafter one of Van Veeteren's colleagues, a promising female detective, goes missing - perhaps because the criminal knows she has come too close to the truth"--provided by book publisher.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member christiguc
This is the second book in the Van Veeteren series by Swedish mystery writer Hakan Nesser. It is the first that I have read.

When Van Veeteren is nearing the end of his vacation on the coast, he gets called in to assist in a serial murder investigation in a nearby town. By the time Van Veeteren is consulted, two have been killed, and the killer has been practically beheading his victims, earning him the title ‘The Axman’ in the press.

Van Veeteren joins the local police: Bausen, the chief who is set to retire in one month and who just wants everything closed by then, Kropke, the pompous computer-literate man, and Beate, an ambitious young woman who feels the need to prove herself. Those four, with later one of Van Veeteren’s underlings from the city, attempt to find the killer before too many others die.

The mystery was straightforward. It was okay. There was nothing outstanding about it, but it clung together cohesively. There are short sections interspersed between chapters which give outtakes from the killer’s point of view. Between those and the information gathered by the detectives, the reader should be able to figure out the mystery—but not too early in the story.

Nesser’s writing-style, however, made the reading difficult at the beginning. He writes in short sentences. Or incomplete sentences. Sentences like I am using right now. To illustrate the point. Making the flow somewhat isolating. Perhaps that was what he was going for. Then he would have achieved it. (I don’t think I can keep it up). His writing construction feels like rapid-fire, catching the reader off guard and making him pay attention (or put the book down). The isolation achieved by the writing construction further adds to the wonderful descriptions of the atmosphere and to the passive attitudes of the characters to give the book a well-developed sense of place.

The other good point, in addition to the formation of setting, is the characters. Most of them are not very likable, but they are very real. In a genre that is full of clichéd, contrived, or condensed characters (some of whom are in very good books—nothing against them), it is refreshing to find an author who can hit the mark.

I wouldn’t recommend this book for everybody, but if you like atmospheric novels with real, though not particularly endearing, characters and with a bit of crime to work through, you will probably like this book. I will buy the next one.
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LibraryThing member bcquinnsmom
Borkmann's Point: "the point beyond which we really don't need any more information. When we reach that point, we already know enough to solve the case by means of nothing more than some decent thinking. " And it is precisely at this point that Inspector Van Veeteren begins to focus on the identity of the Axman, so called because of his propensity to commit murder with an axe. The inhabitants of the small Swedish town of Kaalbringen have become paralyzed with fear after the third murder, and it is up to Inspector Van Veeteren, along with the members of the local police force, to stop this man before he can strike again. There are a couple of fine red herrings put before the reader along the way, and the ending threw me for a loop.

I really enjoyed Nesser's style of writing here. Very unhurried, very understated, so that the reader just sort of falls into the story very easily. It's the same with his portrayal of Van Veeteren -- you just sense that the inspector is going to get his job done, but that he's biding his time. I enjoy this style and this sort of characterization.

General mystery readers will truly enjoy this one, as will those who already read such authors as Henning Mankell or Kerstin Ekman who also hail from Sweden. I am now off to by the next book featuring Van Veeteren.

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LibraryThing member John
Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, like so many police detectives has his personal devils: a divorce and an estranged son who, in this novel, is briefly out on parole (though we don’t see him). Van Veeteren is called in on an axe murder in a small town near where he has been holidaying; it is the second murder and a third one follows. A competent story and plot and some characters with a little edge, but it doesn’t rise much above pleasant.… (more)
LibraryThing member RDHawk6886
The audio version of this book is an excellent production. I concur with the earlier reviewer who commented on the strength of the reader, Simon Vance. What distinguishes the audiobook is that Vance truly brings the story to life utilizing a variety of voices and convincing voice inflection. At many points, I wondered if there were additional readers. I prefer this style of reading and it really enhanced the experience for me. The audiobook is a superior production.
This is my first Van Veeteren book, although I have several of the books from the series waiting to be read. I was invested in the story and enjoyed all of the characters, whom were all well developed. I enjoyed Van Vetteren's musings and attitude. I can certainly understand Nesser's appeal to the discerning scandinavian mystery reader. I will definitely continue the series. Those things being said, I thought the wrap-up to be a bit thin. Typically, in a scandinavian thriller, I am not overly focused on the end, so long as the ride is worth it. I was mixed on this ending. On one hand it nicely pulled together some of the books earlier details, but in other aspects I thought it was a little forced. Regardless, the ride was worth it and I will tune in for his other adventures.
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LibraryThing member annbury
Another excellent thriller from Hakan Nessar, featuring Inspector Van Veeteren. This time, the inspector has been called to a small seaside town to investigate an axe murder. It turns out to have been number two of a series, and another follows, sending the town into panic. The strong points of the other Van Veeteren novels are much in evidence -- compelling characterization, a supple use of time and perspective, and an undertone of humor. Nesser has a large body of work in Sweden, but only four Van Veeterens are available in the US, though a fifth has recently made an appearance in the UK. Let's get those translators going!… (more)
LibraryThing member jimrbrown
First Nesser book I have read and I'm very impressed. Just been to the library and borrowed Woman With a Birthmark. Must read more of this author.
LibraryThing member bookczuk
Kind of a funny thing about this book. I read a review by a friend and put it on my wish list, then forgot about it.

Two years later, I found a copy of Borkmann's Point at the local Goodwill and grabbed it up, confusing Nesser's Van Veeteren with the mystery writer Janwillem Lincoln van de Wetering, and his wonderful series of books starring Grijpstra and de Gier, a pair of Amsterdam police officers. The book was snagged by my darling husband, who is a huge fan of Scandinavian mystery writers. He liked the book a great deal. He returned it to me to read, but before I could get to it, he loaned it out to a mutual friend, who had it since December. She returned it two weeks ago, and I again put it on my TBR pile. Then, the day of our BookCrossing meetup, he handed me a pile of books to take, pointing to this book, and asked that I give it to Kiptrix to read. That did it. I'd reached my Borkmann's point ("the point beyond which we really don't need any more information. When we reach that point, we already know enough to solve the case by means of nothing more than some decent thinking. " ) I knew that I had all the information I needed. If I didn't read this book NOW, I'd have to wait another two years. I took the hint, and devoured the book in a day.

Well written mystery, with a really great lead character, who will keep me seeking out other books in the series. The story was well paced, the plot with enough twists and turns to keep the reader occupied. (It's my firm belief that plot summaries are readily available elsewhere. I prefer to give you my thoughts and feelings about the books I read.) I found myself easily visualizing the police chief's cottages lost in the tangle of roses, the lonely cliff side and beach of coastal Kaalbringen, a sleepy town awake with fear from two recent ax murders. But most of all, it is the quirky nature and quiet intelligence of the inspector that charmed me. I am very glad that at the closing of my local Indie bookstore, I had the foresight to snag Van Veeteren #3 (now being read by javaczuk.)
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LibraryThing member ritaer
Inspector Van Veeteren is challenged by murders of three apparently unrelated men by an axe weilding killer. Are the victims chosen at random by a maniac? or is there a connection between them that, once discovered, would lead to the killer. The stakes are raised by the disappearance of one of the detectives on the case. The pressure to find the killer is increased by public panic and the imminent retirement of the city's chief of police. The reader is let in on the killer's motives from early on, but the identity comes as a surprise.

The reading of this CD version is excellent, with differing "voices" distinguishing the characters clearly.
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LibraryThing member merideth1775
The audio edition was of this book was excellent. I adore Simon Vance, whom I first loved for his reading of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Vance does an excellent job bringing the characters to life and engaging the listener. Borkmann’s Point was an first-rate mystery with well developed characters. Though at times it became a bit slow, the plot was still good and had an interesting twist at the end. This was my first Inspector Van Veeteran book and I am excited to read more in the series.… (more)
LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
Borkman's Point is a solid police procedural by Hakan Nesser. Here, Inspector Van Veeteren is sent to the Swedish coastal town of Kaalbringen to assist local law enforcement when two men are killed with an axe-like weapon as they are walking home at night. The media shows up and the citizens of Kaalbringen are terrified, but Van Veeteren pursues the Axeman with dogged determination. He's assisted by the affable local police chief, one of his own detectives and an ambitious Kaalbringen detective who throws herself into the investigation, determined to make a name for herself.

The story is well put together, with no sudden surprises, although the eventual revealing of the Axeman's identity did surprise me. Van Veeteren is not flashy; his one conceit is that the sound system in his rusty Opel is worth much more than the aging car itself. He does solve the case, of course, but with a strong reliance on the value of ordinary police diligence than on being a super-detective.

I listened to the audio version of this book. The narrator was chosen, I believe, because he was able to interject Swedish names and expressions without pause. He also managed to make each character's voice distinct, without resorting to funny voices.
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LibraryThing member kaulsu
I had come to the conclusion that the fiction offered by Early Reviewers was all bunk. This was fabulous.

I had come to the conclusion that Swedish writers were too "dark" for my tastes. This was fabulous.

I had come to the conclusion (okay, so only after one audio book) that Simon Vance was not a good narrator. This was fabulous.

The mystery unfolds in a rather different manner than most. Although I didn't guess the 'evil-doer' for a long while, I did know the motive. And although I did guess--in a manner of speaking-- [no spoiler alert] who done it, I didn't quite get there until the end.

Simon Vance did an excellent job of distinguishing the voices of the various characters--though a Swedish speaking listener may object that they mostly sounded British--which is not necessarily that easy in making it all sound "foreign." As most foreign-language translations, not being familiar with the character names takes some getting used to. All authors--all editors--all publishers should think hard about having each character's name start with a different phonetic sound!!

I hope if you read this, or listen to this, you enjoy it as much as I did.
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LibraryThing member wdwilson3
This is a review of the audio book version of this police procedural, by the Swedish author Hakan Nesser. This mystery has some very familiar elements – the mysterious serial killer whose motive (if any) is unknown; an aging, world-weary detective (we know him only as Detective Inspector Van Veeteren, no first name); and a cast of police detectives of various skill levels and degrees of eccentricity. Nesser’s writing skill is really the only thing that sets this book apart from many Scandinavian counterparts. His dialogue is crisp, his descriptive paragraphs evocative. His plotting is not exceptional, at least in this volume, but the story keeps moving forward in fits and starts.

My personal reaction to most northern European mysteries is, I have to say, depression. Like so many protagonists in such books, Van Veeteren is obsessive, keeps his thoughts to himself, and doesn’t seem to have any friends or family. If he were a Sherlock Holmes and promptly identified the killer, one would understand why he is a revered homicide detective, but, at least in this instance, he seems to be making little progress in his detection until the end.

Kudos to the narrator (Simon Vance), who manages to give the various characters their own voices, even if the police chief reminded me strongly of John Cleese.
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LibraryThing member rwt42
A book where you turn the pages to see if it gets better, not because you are interested. It's his first that I've read and it's unlikely that I will read another. Sadly, there is a good mystery story here, but it's buried in endless, pointless writing with a raft of characters whom remain no more than names, some with titles who do nothiing but clutter and confuse the story. Unfortunately this seems to be a standard technique with the Scandinavian crime writers.… (more)
LibraryThing member dablackwood
This is an amazing novel which happens to be a mystery. Nesser is a wonderful writer. I listened to this book on an Early Reviewer CD and had to wait until my husband finished it before I could start. Steve came into the house chuckling that he knew who the axe murderer was and that it was a fabulous book. This from a man who almost never even reads fiction. I was excited to listen to it since I love Henning Mankell. The setting. characters, and plot were beautifully rendered. Though the crimes were horrific, Nesser was never gratuitous in his violence. What a great read. I will definitely read more by this fine writer.… (more)
LibraryThing member Jcambridge
This was the second of two Van Veeteren crime novels that I read during a recent trip that involved cross-country flights. While I found some aspects of the story interesting -- chapters that focused on the unidentified villain's reason for committing his crimes -- I was able to identify the villain about 3/4 of the way through the book, so the ending was not a surprise. It's worth reading, but does not come close to the work of other Scandinavian crime writers.… (more)
LibraryThing member ccayne
I figured out who the axman was early on but that in no way diminished my opinion of the book. Nesser's strength is in showing the humanity of every person, of how one deals with the messy aspects of life, some better than others. Clearly, the axman could not absorb a loss in his life. It was well written and absorbing.
LibraryThing member pmfloyd1
First, I need to disclose that I am reviewing the audio book and that I received the Audio Book in the monthly readers auction. Second, I have read the book before I received this audio book, so I knew what to expect, but I was VERY impressed with the reader(Simon Vance) and with the audio book debut. It was like meeting knowing where we were going, but I did enjoy the ride. Now onto the book.... Borkman's Point. This is Nesser's second book in the Inspector Van Veeteren series. I have read 4 of his books - Mind's Eye, Borkmann's Point and Woman with a Birthmark and The Return. All four are excellent.... if a little gritty. The inspector is an interesting (and normal, customary and usual) Swedish character and the story has many twists and turns. This audio book is unabridged and runs for over 7 hours. I would highly recommend the audio book verison. Paul Floyd, Mpls, MN.… (more)
LibraryThing member shelleyraec
A little slow for me but well crafted with developed characters and a solid mystery. Not a lot of atmosphere though - it could have been happening in any part of the world. The translation was first rate - Ive read a few by similar authors such as Mankell where the translation is just a little bit off.
LibraryThing member terran
Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is asked to curtail his vacation in order to help solve a case involving the murders of 2 men by a killer using an axe., He doesn't hesitate overlong to agree to look into the matter. Van Veeteren comes across as a stereotypical moody, broody Scandinavian detective, similar to Wallander and Martin Beck. He likes to listen to classical music like Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse, but his car is definitely NOT a Jaguar or Lancia. While I tend to get annoyed with depressed main characters, I did like his sense of humor and optimism. He actually expected to solve the case quite quickly. As time dragged on, the details built up, and detectives checked and rechecked leads. I find this type of police procedural to be fascinating, but some readers get frustrated at the slow progress.
The personalities of the detectives helping Van Veeteren came through distinctively, and most of them actually had personal lives beyond the investigation. In fact, one of the detectives went missing part way through the book which added to the suspense and put pressure on the team to solve the case more expeditiously. All in all this audio version was well done and held my interest, although I wasn't pleased by the "surprise" twist at the end. I'm not sure if I'll follow through with other books in this series.
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LibraryThing member MsGumby
A brilliant plot. I love the characters, and I love the atmosphere the author creates. He is one of those writers who can sketch a person or a place with just a few sentences, and you see everything so vividly. I am planning to read all his books!
LibraryThing member Condorena
There is no point to reiterate the plot, that is done so well by other reviewers. the point that I want to make other than Borkmann's, which I missed by the way, was that when trying to find similarities between the victims of a serial killer even some wild speculations would have been better than absolutely zilch. The fact that the first victim was a drug addict should have at least suggested drugs were possibly related. There were a lot of arrows pointing at the killer from early in the book and then they would disappear or fade for a while eventually to return.… (more)
LibraryThing member cameling
This is the second in the Van Veeteren series. This isn't as dark as most Scandi crime fiction, but Nesser does a great job keeping his readers in suspense until the very end.

In this book, an ax murderer has killed 3 people in a small town. The local constabulary have no experience with murder and Van Veeteren is called in to offer some assistance. There are no clues and no apparent motive. No witnesses or at least no reliable witnesses and most frustratingly, no apparent connection between the 3 men.

I like the way the story builds. I had thought I figured out who the killer was and possibly what the motive was, but I was completely blown away when I discovered at the end that I was wrong and that I'd been barking up a wrong tree in a completely different forest.
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LibraryThing member Eowyn1
Borkmann's Point: "the point beyond which we really don't need any more information. When we reach that point, we already know enough to solve the case by means of nothing more than some decent thinking. " It took me until page 75 to reach that point...
LibraryThing member RowingRabbit
3.5 stars

This is another Scandinavian author whose catalogue is gradually being translated for the North American audience. It features CI Van Veeteren, a Swedish cop with more than 30 years on the job.
Van Veeteren is currently enjoying the last days of his summer vacation when his chief calls. Seems they're having a little problem with an axe murderer in nearby Kaalbringen. Would he mind popping over & having a look around?
There he meets Bausen, the soon-to-retire chief & his crew, one of whom is a young, ambitious detective named Beate Moerk. Unfortunately they're spinning their wheels. After exhaustive investigation, there seems to be no rhyme or reason behind the murders. And while they shift through endless reports & interviews, another victim falls to the axe.
If you're into fast paced thrillers with lots of car chases & things that go boom, this is not for you. Yes, it's a police procedural but it's also a character study of its' star, Van Veeteren. He's a man of a certain age who has closed every case in his career, save one. His personal life has not been as successful. He's divorced & alone with a son currently out on parole.
He's not a flashy or aggressive character. Instead, he's the soft spoken guy on the periphery who sees & hears everything. Long walks & playing chess allow him to let all the information percolate in his head until the connections start to appear. It can be frustrating for those around him as he doesn't appear to be doing anything. Beate reacts by striking out on her own, desperate for action & to make a name for herself. It could cost her life.
This is a slow, introspective read that is more about the characters than the case. Even the killer gets a chance to tell his gut wrenching story about his quest for revenge. The pace pick up in the final few pages as his identity is revealed but the resolution brings the team more sadness than satisfaction.
As for the eponymous Borkmann, well...he shows up more in spirit than in person. For fans of Barbara Fradkin, David Whellams or Quentin Bate's "Gunnhildur" series.
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LibraryThing member stuart10er
I enjoyed this crime novel quite a bit. A series of murders using an ax terrorizes a small northern European town and the Inspector is brought in to help catch the murdered. It takes a while, strangely enough for a small town where everyone seems to know each other, but they do eventually uncover the murdered. Wonderful characters that seem real while also serious and funny. Not an easy combination.… (more)


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