Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Håkan Nesser, Hour of the Wolf

Hour of the Wolf, one of Håkan Nesser's Chief Inspector Van Veeteren series, isn't new (the English
translation appeared three years ago) but is only reaching Kindle format in the upcoming months (which is the impetus for my current review). the Van Veeteren books are set in a fictional "Maardam," something like Ed McBain's fictional Isola. Maardam is an amalgam of northern European countries, with place and family names that suggest Holland, Germany, Belgium, and Denmark (oddly, nothing sounds very Swedish except for some cultural references--perhaps in the author's original Swedish text, Swedish names wouldn't have sounded "alien" enough to create the sense of a new place/no place. Another distinctive feature of the series is that the central character, Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, retires to help run an antiquarian bookstore, early in the series.

Hour of the Wolf is a first-class police procedural, with the team of detectives taking center stage, and Van Veeteren thrust into the investigation because his son is one of the first victims of a crime spree that begins with a hit-and-run accident. Van Veeteren's grief is a central motif of the book (though the cop and his son had long been estranged, something established at the beginning of the series); but the retired chief inspector also exhibits his intuitive method, as he shadows the police investigation and provides key insights.

The story alternates among the detectives, the retired chief inspector, and the killer, a skilfully handled kaleidoscope that ceases in the final chapters as the police are left with several difficult matters to sort out, leading to a strangely metafictional section in which the current chief inspector (rather than the retired one) travels to New York (which is of course the model for McBain's Isola) from the fictional Maardam. The effect is strange, but well handled--as is the final resolution, going beyond the mere identification of the killer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Probably my favourite Nesser book.