Nancy Oakes's Reviews > The Inspector and Silence

The Inspector and Silence by Håkan Nesser
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really liked it
bookshelves: translated-crime-fiction, crime-fiction-scandinavia, crime-fiction

Left to man the Sorbinowo police station while the chief takes time off to get over the death of his wife, Sergeant Merwin Kluuge isn't expecting much trouble in this bit of paradise. But it's not long until he receives an anonymous call from a woman claiming that a little girl has disappeared from a camp in Waldingen run by the Pure Life religious sect. The people at the camp say everyone's accounted for. The next day he gets yet another anonymous phone call from the same woman, who threatens to go to the press if Kluuge doesn't do something. But what sends him into a minor panic, and has him reaching for the phone to call the Mardaam police is when she says that if continues to do nothing, "they'll kill some more." His chief had left orders not to be disturbed and to call Maardam if anything came up, because Van Veeteren owed him. Of course, V.V. is not happy about this, since he's bought a plane ticket for Crete, but off he goes to Sorbinowo. But when he gets to the Pure Life camp, the group will hardly give him the time of day, and swear that no one's disappeared. He's allowed to talk to some of the girls, but they're not saying much. The next day, the body of a young girl is discovered -- she had been raped and murdered. But Van Veeteren realizes that something's off -- he recognizes the dead girl as one of those to whom he had just spoken to the day before. So if she had been alive the day before, how could she be the missing girl the caller warned about earlier? So what happened to that girl? It isn't long until Van Veeteren and the police get their answer. Complicating the issue is the fact that the small group at the Pure Life camp, with the exception of one girl who is very upset, is not talking. No matter how much Van Veeteren and the others question them, nobody is saying a word -- or when they do, it's to extol the virtues of their religious beliefs and to put down those living in "the Other World." The leader, Yellinek, has disappeared; no one knows anything about it -- or if they do, they're not saying anything. Frustrated, Van Veeteren knows that this case will not be easy to crack -- first he has to break through the wall of silence.

This is a fascinating book, actually, one that showcases V.V. at his best. While he pleads with the members of Pure Life to offer up any information they can to help find the murder and rapist of two young girls, nobody seems to care about anything except maintaining the integrity of the sect and defending their missing leader. Small wonder that he has his eye on trading years of police work for a partnership in an antiquarian book store -- seriously, you can sense his frustration leaping off of the pages. Although the crimes in The Inspector and Silence are particularly horrifying, Nesser as usual uses some moments of sarcasm and humor to ease the tension. He also continues the tradition of great characterization and a powerful sense of place, elements that never waver throughout any of his novels. While many people said they didn't care for this book, I thought it was one of the better ones in the series.

Definitely recommended for Scandinavian crime fiction readers, but do start with book one in the series. The Van Veeteren novels really are more on the cerebral, rather than the action-packed side, so if you're looking for someone a la Nesbø or Stieg Larsson, you won't find it here -- and this begs the question as to why on the cover of my copy there is a blurb from the Sunday Times saying "[Nesser] is being favorably compared with Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson." Nesser doesn't need to compare favorably -- he has his own style which is every bit as good or even better than the authors with whom he is "being favorably compared."
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 16, 2011 – Finished Reading
October 19, 2011 – Shelved
September 12, 2013 – Shelved as: translated-crime-fiction
September 12, 2013 – Shelved as: crime-fiction-scandinavia
September 12, 2013 – Shelved as: crime-fiction

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by James (new)

James Thane Another nice review, Nancy.


Nancy Oakes thanks, James! If I could only speed read!


Mohammed Abdi Osman Nice review and you sold me on Van Veeteren novels when you said they are more cerebral than Nesbo and Stieg Larrson. Frankly i dont like that Larsson is what people think of as swedish crime fiction.

I should have tried this author long ago but there are so many scandinavian crime out there and specially swedish ones. I have some book of him home that is not Van Veeteren.


message 4: by James (new)

James Thane Nancy wrote: "thanks, James! If I could only speed read!"

You and me both!


Nancy Oakes Mohammed wrote: "Nice review and you sold me on Van Veeteren novels when you said they are more cerebral than Nesbo and Stieg Larrson. Frankly i dont like that Larsson is what people think of as swedish crime fict..."

Hi -- the two are so very different. Have you read the Martin Beck series by Wahloo and Sjowall? They're old, but still very well written.

Another non-Larson/Nesbo author I like is Jorn Lier Horst, who wrote a really nice book called Dregs. While I happen to enjoy a good rock-em sock-em crime read once in a while, I prefer the books with less action, more thinking. If you have some free time sometime, you might want to look at my crime fiction blog and maybe pick up some more ideas.

Nice to meet you!


message 6: by Cathleen (new)

Cathleen I've read two of Hakan Nesser's (Borkmann's Point and Mind's Eye and liked them very much, so I'll look for this one,too. Good winter reading :)


Nancy Oakes They're the best when you read them in order, actually, just FYI. I'm jealous that you have winter! I live in FL. When I want winter, I have to fly to Seattle!


message 8: by Cathleen (new)

Cathleen Winter's nice for a few weeks or so, but we've gotten so much snow the past few years, that I wouldn't be disappointed if we had a mild winter. We go to Florida for a week in December--just to get a break from the snow and the short days.
I've always wanted to go to Seattle. It looks like a great city.


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