Inspector Van Veeteren is, again, thinking of retirement. He is tired in body and soul from the thirty-five years he has given to police work. He only sees the worst: the worst one human can do to another, the worst moment in a person’s life, the moment when they realize that someone they love is not simply dead, but murdered, the worst people, those who can kill without cause and reason. He has had enough of the unhappiness and desolation of the world; he thinks he might like to be a partner in the ownership and operation of a bookstore.
It is July, one of the hottest on record in whatever country it is that Van Veeteren lives. His summer vacation is on the horizon and he goes to a travel agent for ideas. In front of him in line, is a woman he met when he was investigating the murder of her husband. He thinks he could have fallen in love with this woman if he had met her thirty years ago. He hears the travel agent recite the particulars of her two week stay on Crete. Van Veeteren leaves that agency before the woman can see him, returns home, calls the travel agent and makes the exact same plans. For once he has planned early with a very specific goal in mind.
When he returns to the police station, he feels it is only fair to tell his boss that he is contemplating retirement and that he will give his final decision when he returns from vacation. He has claimed to be preparing to retire many times before without making the final decision. This time, his boss decides to put him to work, telling him he will be getting a “two day vacation” in a little community on a lake. A young police officer has called for help because his superior is on vacation and he has been left in charge. Chief of Police Malijsen tells Sergeant Kluuge that he is the chief of police for the duration of chief’s vacation and he is not to contact him under any circumstances. Instead, if he finds himself in a bit of difficulty, he is to contact Inspector Van Veeteren. That there is a ride of close to two hours between the jurisdictions isn’t a problem. Nothing is going to happen.
But something does. Acting Chief of Police Kluuge calls Van Veeteren’s superior because of two anonymous phone calls he has received from a woman who claims that a young girl is missing from the religious camp run by Pure Life, a sect founded by Oscar Yellinek who claims he offers the only road to redemption. Kluuge calls the camp but is assured that all of the girls are accounted for. Then he receives a second phone call. “I rang yesterday and reported that a little girl had disappeared. You’ve done nothing. I assume she’s been murdered. If you don’t do something, I’ll be forced to turn to the newspapers….If you don’t do something, they’ll kill more.” Van Veeteren is sent to resolve the situation.
When Van Veeteren arrives in Sorbinowo, the town nearest the camp, he begins interviewing the adults at the Pure Life camp. The three women, all dressed identically in sari-like garments of unbleached muslin, speak without saying anything. The campers deny that a girl is missing. Oscar Yellinek speaks at length about the horrors of the Other World, the one everyone not a member of Pure Life dwells in. Van Veeteren gets no information, not even the names of the girls at the camp. And then Kluuge receives another phone call from his mystery informant. She has found a body and she gives Kluuge specific directions to the location. Van Veeteren knows the girl. He had spoken to Clarissa Heerenmacht the day before. This was clearly not the body of the girl first reported missing by the anonymous caller.
As Inspector Van Veeteren attempts to identify the killer of Clarissa, the same person who may also have killed the missing girl, he is faced with silence. No one in Pure Life will speak and Van Veeteren is lost in the forests, surrounded by silence, trying to hear a solution.
Hakan Nesser does not write action. His books are written from inside Van Veeteren’s mind. They are slow but there are no wasted words. Slowly, the inspector examines the evidence, patiently he listens to those who will speak, and gradually he comes to the conclusion that will close the case. In thirty-five years, he has failed to close only one. All the Nesser books are a rest from the frenetic. THE INSPECTOR AND SILENCE is a reward for those who like pictures painted with words.
* I received an Advance Reader’s Edition through Amazon Vine
Nesser is a fascinating writer, one to whom I sincerely relate. But to be brutally honest, Beth, what impressed me most was your review. This not false praise, you have developed into an extraordinary reviewer, capturing not just the essence and subtleties of the work, but the writer’s very raison d’etre for the effort. Congratulations and thank you.
Thank you, Jeff (I think).
It does add a good bit of pressure; since I don’t know exactly what I do that is different from what other reviewers do.
I cheat a bit in that I only post reviews of books about which I can be positive. Whether a reader likes a book is based on personal reactions to the story, characters or setting that it is unfair to an author. There are many books that get a great deal of positive reaction but are books I would never be interested in reading.
It will come as no surprise that I like words and I admire people who can use them to create a world that a reader can believe in.
Your next book is coming out when?
It’s planned for January 2012. I’m just awaiting comments from my editor. A wonderful experience I can assure you:).
I will be more than ready. The three books in the series so far are:
MURDER ON MYKONOS
ASSASSINS OF ATHENS
PREY ON PATMOS
All are must reads.
Thanks for the review. I’ve read two books by Nesser and was interested in this one, but some people have said that it doesn’t hold a candle to his earlier works.
THE INSPECTOR AND SILENCE is different from the other books I have read in translation. This one is quieter, Van Veeteren is older and he is facing witnesses who are young and for whom there is safety in silence.
I picked up an audio book version of this from the library a few months ago to listen to during my commute and really enjoyed it. Thanks again for reviewing it!
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