"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.
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.
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.
The reading of this CD version is excellent, with differing "voices" distinguishing the characters clearly.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.