A woman sets out to avenge a terrible wrong done many years ago to her mother.
She meticulously plans to murder the guilty men, and when Ryszard Malik is found by his wife Ilse shot dead with two bullets in the chest and two below the belt Inspector Van Veeteren and his team of detectives have no idea that this is only the beginning of a battle of wits with a determined serial killer.
Hakan Nesser has given us a slightly different variation on the serial killer sub genre in this book, which was written in Swedish as long ago as 1996. What we get with Woman with Birthmark is a blended account of the systematic police investigation along with the musings of Van Veeteren's team of detectives, as well as the actions and thoughts of the potential victims and the sympathetic killer. The author produces plot and wonderful characters in abundance as well as large doses of ironic humour and this results in a book that is a delight to read.
My favourite among the cops is Rheinhart, who with his dry wit conducts a constant verbal contest with Van Veeteren.
With the investigation completely stalled:
"Nothing else?" asked Van Veeteren.
'No," said Rheinhart. "The transcripts of the interrogations are at your disposal if you want something guaranteed to send you to sleep over the weekend."
"Good," said VanVeeteren. "Well done, everybody."
"Thank you," said deBries.
Rheinhart has found himself a beautiful quarter aboriginal Australian woman Winnifred Lynch, who I hope will feature in the rest of the series as she seems a good influence on him.
Munster, Van Veeteren's long suffering badminton partner, and the attractive Moreno now living with a high flying banker, there were such things in 1996, have become more than just a supporting cast for Van Veeteren, and also hopefully will continue to feature in the rest of the series.
There is some really insightful writing in this novel but there is always a tinge of sadness in the narrative. Life is sometimes very cruel and Hakan Nesser is a storyteller who makes humour one answer to his characters numerous disappointments.
Who this particular guest was, and what the hell he was doing in this lugubrious town in a month like February, were the kind of questions that, in his capacity of observer and man of the world, he had ceased to ask forty or more years ago.
This is the fourth of Hakan Nesser's ten book Van Veeteren series to be translated from the Swedish into English by Laurie Thompson. Like Oliver Twist may I ask for more please and as quickly as possible.
Photograph of Hakan Nesser with authors Cara Black and Leighton Gage, courtesy of Leighton Gage