WOMAN WITH BIRTHMARK – Hakan Nesser

The difficulty in reviewing a book by Hakan Nesser is that to give information about the book may be to give too much information.  Nesser uses words sparingly,  every word carries weight.  Nesser offers the reader Inspector Van Veeteren, a man for whom words are a distraction from what can be seen and what can be heard.

This review was first posted on July 17, 2010.

WOMAN WITH BIRTHMARK is the fourth of Harkan Nesser’s books to be translated into English. It opens in a cemetery a few days before Christmas. A woman, the lone mourner, stands at the side of a grave as her mother is being buried. In the last days before her death, her mother had urged, “Don’t cry….don’t stand there bawling at my funeral….No, do something, my girl! Take action!. Do something magnificent that I can applaud up there in heaven!”

Ryszard Malik has been receiving strange phone calls. Someone has been calling and playing an old song from the sixties; the caller never says a word. One night, in the middle of January, his wife returns to find his body sprawled in the entry. He had been shot four times, twice in the heart and twice below the belt. There are no clues, no suspects, and no indication of a motive.

Van Veeteren and his team go through the motions but there is nothing in Malik’s background to suggest that someone would want him dead. It seems a clear “no solve” until another man is murdered. Rickard Maasleitner was found shot to death, two bullets in the chest and two bullets below the belt. He, too, had received phone calls in which there was played a song that he vaguely remembered from the 1960′s.

The story opens fully when the team discover the connection between the men and a detective’s partner suggests something about the killer that Van Veeteren may well have missed.

The title tells the tale.

This is a tightly written story, the best, I think, of Nesser’s books. Van Veeteren is more upbeat and less self-involved than he seemed to be in the previous books. It is a book that begs to be read at one go.

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5 Responses to WOMAN WITH BIRTHMARK – Hakan Nesser

  1. It’s only fitting that Nesser’s best book (as you call it), received such an irresistible, outstanding review. You make me want to buy it, again!
    –Jeff

  2. Beth says:

    THE INSPECTOR AND SILENCE is a good story that addresses a serious social issue in a bucolic atmosphere. Van Veeteren goes about the case engaging in an interior monologue. A different approach but an effective one for a man who is by nature solitary.

  3. Pingback: Woman With Birthmark by Håkan Nesser « Bibliojunkie

  4. jerry sandusky interview

  5. Beth says:

    So often the worst things that happen to people, the things that are life-altering, happen to people who are victims of someone else’s sin. I know sin is not word that is used often anymore. Sin is the exercise of free will without consideration of the consequences to the sinner or to those being sinned against. Police procedurals are about bringing to justice those who have harmed someone through thought, word, or deed. (Catholic education never goes away).
    The Sandusky interview is another violation of the children he harmed. Sandusky portrays himself as the victim of the lies of children he tried to help but there are giveaway moments in the NYT interview and with the NBC interview with Bob Kostas. In both interviews he is asked if he is attracted to children. In the NBC interview, he doesn’t react as an innocent man would react. He should have been horrified by the suggestion; instead, there is a long pause as he tries to decide how to answer. In the NYT interview, Sandusky’s lawyer can be heard off screen clarifying that his client never meant anyone to think he was sexually attracted to children.
    Sandusky denies that the allegations are true and he is baffled and hurt by the idea that his genuine interest in children, helping those who are less fortunate, could be so misconstrued. He will maintain this baffled act all the way to the court house, if it ever gets to a court house. As in the pedophile crisis in the Catholic church, children do not come forward because they believe that no one will believe them. In Sandusky’s case, his lawyers will offer him up as a saint who is now the victim of his good intentions. Pedophiles choose their victims carefully and then begin, for want of a better word, a seduction, winning the child’s trust before they destroy their innocence and their self-respect. Like victim’s of rape, it is always the victim who is blamed.

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