Bonnie Brody's Reviews > The Inspector and Silence

The Inspector and Silence by Håkan Nesser
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's review
Feb 28, 2012

really liked it
Read in July, 2011

This is one of the hottest summers on record in Sweden and Chief Inspector Van Veeteren, on the force for over 30 years, is thinking of retiring. He is tempted by an ad he sees in an antiquarian bookstore window requesting a co-owner and manager. He keeps this in the back of his mind. He also decides he needs a vacation and decides to go to Crete, a location where a woman he is interested in will be vacationing. Instead of going to Crete, he is sent out on a case in rural Sweden.

The case involves the disappearance of two girls from the Pure Life Church summer camp, a sect run by on Oscar Yellinek and his three women 'hand maidens'. Yelinek has been jailed in the past for 'inappropriate' behaviors. What these behaviors were are not made clear, but he served six months in jail. The Pure Life Church focuses on three requirements: purity, prayer, and self-denial. There are questions about sexual inappropriateness within the sect but no one will discuss what goes on within.

While investigating the girl's disappearance, it appears that a second girl may have disappeared. However, the participants of Pure Life will not cooperate and remain silent, even the campers. The local police receive a few anonymous phone calls from a woman describing the location of the bodies and the mystery proceeds from here. Who is this anonymous caller? Why is she calling and how does she know about the murders?

The mystery is character-driven and Van Veeteren has a wry sense of humor and a philosophical bent. His sense of humor and interests are appealing. He enjoys classical music, solitude, and thinks a lot about retirement. The mystery proceeds very well but the ending pops out like a jack-in-the-box, a deus ex machina or sorts, making this book a four instead of a five. I do not hesitate to read more of Nesser's books. In fact, I just started Borkmann's Point: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery. There is something about the existential bent in Scandinavian mysteries that appeal to me and Nesser is up there with the best of them.

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