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by Hakan Nesser
Macmillan, May 2006
256 pages
ISBN: 0333989848

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

BORKMANN'S POINT isn't some remote Swedish promontory where bodies pile up to keep the neighbourhood police gainfully employed. But the murder rate is definitely on the rise in the quiet coastal town of Kaalbringen . . .

And that's why Chief Inspector Van Veeteren (no first name -- a man must have an air of mystery!) is called in to help the local plods track down the killer of an ex-con and a local businessman. It's hardly surprising they need his help, given his opposite number Bausen is counting the days down to his retirement, Inspector Kropke is terminally stupid, and Constables Bang and Mooser appear to have been at the back of the queue when commonsense was handed out. The whole police station seems unable to function without regular intakes of coffee and Danish pastries.

Only Inspector Beate Moerk appears to have the sense she was born with. But once she disappears, Van Veeteren has his work cut out to find the serial killer before Beate becomes the next victim.

BORKMANN'S POINT is a masterpiece of spare writing and dry, throwaway wit. OK, so I've got a juvenile sense of humour, but I did like the following exchange:

"My name is Inspector Kropke," said Kropke.

"Funny first name," said the woman, with a yawn. "But come in, even so."

Some of Hakan Nesser's best scenes have the two chief inspectors, clearly both of fairly mature years, sparring happily and enjoying good food and drink as they play chess in Bausen's incredible overgrown garden.

Van Veeteren himself is from the Inspector Morse mould -- rather crusty, impatient with idiots (and there are certainly plenty of those around in the book!) and with a long-suffering sidekick in the shape of Munster. We don't find out a lot about our hero, mind, aside from learning near the start that he has a son who's been in prison.

This is not a mystery where clues are strewn liberally in your path. It was one of those books, though, where I felt it in my water who'd dunit -- and my water was right!

More than slightly bizarre, though, is the translation and spelling. Laurie Thompson's an old stager when it comes to Swedish crime fiction translations. The rendition is brisk and throwaway, but partially written in US English, despite much of the slang being British and the book being aimed (if the ARC back cover is to be believed) at a UK market. Very weird.

Don't let it put you off, though. BORKMANN'S POINT is a pleasant and engrossing read, and I sincerely hope there's more of the series waiting in the wings.

Oh, and and in case you're wondering, the title refers to a theory from an old detective of Van Veeteren's acquaintance who reckoned there reaches a point in any enquiry where the police have all the information they require. And this is proved in BORKMANN'S POINT.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, June 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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